Christmas Past Gives Up the Ghost
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,
I know that my Redeemer lives
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…
Invasion from Normandy
This month, I am learning that all the interior work that God did with me over the summer had a higher purpose. In September, I was bolstered even more. With David gone most of the month, I was dependent on my Jesus and we made great strides together. I was given $300 for keeping a 12 yr. old for 10 days. I made huge progress on the house. I didn’t have any migraines. I was able to keep up with Olivia’s new school and music lesson schedule and all the transportation involved (usually David’s job). I hosted weekly inner healing group meetings, prayer times with Olivia’s home room teacher, and invited a British student over every Sunday for internet/phone time. My Pilates class started back up and I signed up 2 more friends to attend with me. In other words, every day was busy, and I was able to keep up!
For those of you who do not know me personally, this is a big deal. I think it may have something to do with dropping all my roles at school. As much as I wanted to use my teaching degree and help lighten the endless janitorial load, it was sucking the life out of me. I see now that this is not the battlefield where I am going to advance. So for our spiritual, physical, and emotional sanity, David and I are narrowing our focus.
This month the focus for me was advancing in inner healing training in order to strengthen our church body, so that we can move into greater kingdom works. Because I had to cross the Channel to do it, I thought it could be recounted more efficiently if I wrote in the abbreviated style of a diary of a soldier heading to Normandy:
D -8: No deposit from our supporting church for 3 weeks while they change their accounting processes. My inner healing team gathers to encourage each other and pray for our 2 trips to attend seminars for further training. Everyone has a mountain in front of them to keep them from going, but we know it is God’s desire for us to go and it is key to continue moving forward in establishing this ministry introduced over the summer.
D -7: David catches a bad cold. Hosting our friend Alana for 5 days – Her presence helps us keep our chins up. (She is here 3 months to find her place before moving over for good next year.)
D -6: Two on our team overcome (severe physical pain and getting time off as a teacher) to leave for the seminar in Germany.
I book our rooms at a local B&B in England by faith, since no advanced deposits are necessary.
D -5: Still no money; David still weak. We cancel plans to attend a wedding over the weekend.
D -3: I catch David’s illness. (Thanks to Columbus Day Stateside) still no deposit.
D -2: I am in bed all day with a fever. 4 weeks without a deposit. David still recovering.The elders come to anoint me with oil.
D -1: Fever has broken, I pack my bag for the 4-day trip in the evening. Got the laundry done, but asked friends to help feed David and Olivia. Both still certain that I should go. Thanks to the support of the Body, we are learning to walk through closed doors.
D-Day: Got in my teammate’s car at 6am for the 8 hr drive to the coast. Called David before boarding the ferry, and the deposit has arrived, and other money owed him for his IT work came in. Friends in England even wiring money. While looking off the ferry at the white cliffs of Dover, I am amazed at my recovery. We are all light-hearted as we “walk across the water.”
D +1: Fought a migraine and didn’t sleep well. Meds weren’t helping. Not permitted by the B&B owners to stay in my room to recover. Teammates praying over me day and night – a real training time to strengthen me in coming against physical attack without David to lean on/replace me. Refreshed by worshiping with new songs in English.
D +2: The fight continues. Tried different meds to no avail. Someone brought me a duvet to lay on during the day. Enjoying the freedom to talk to strangers in my own language without fear of reproach and be a translator for the team. Despite nausea, tried to enjoy the fish and chips we had for dinner.
D +3: Slept better, but woke up with my head still hurting. Cried out to God for mercy during the worship time. Yes, I’d been a good “soldier” and not backed down, but emotionally, needed to be His little girl, to enjoy my last evening and the last day before the long drive home through the night. The film “Up” was playing in a small theatre in town – been trying for months to find it playing in English somewhere in our region. Begged Him for a breakthrough so that I could see it before we left. Throbbing slowly stopped at end of day. Teammates could not endure anymore English, so dropped me off to see “Up” alone. So happy… shared my joy with cashier, and afterwards, my ride home showed up like an angel at the right place and the right time, even without a phone call.
D +4: Attended the last session with a smile on my face. Received a prayer of impartation from leadership to plant ministry in Alsace. Ferry ride very rough and nausea returned, this time for all 3 of us. Back on the road, the fatigue and muscle aches hit at about 3 am with a couple of hours to go. Back in my bed at last, the illness that I had left behind came back and spent the next 27 hours sleeping off and on.
D +5: Received a perky e-mail (from the teammate that did most of the driving and who is 13 years older) reporting that he was already back in the saddle! Still shuffling around in my pajamas feeling miserable while the neighbors a few feet away chose this day to jack-hammer all the plaster off of the front of their house. Gumdrop spends the day yowling in anxiety.
In 2 Sam. 24:24 David refused to make a sacrifice to the Lord that cost him nothing. That costly sacrifice stopped a plague on his people. I believe that my sacrifice is one of the beginnings of ending the plague of lies that prey on the minds of on French Christians. At the same time, we are being prepared to walk head-on into future challenges while covering our brothers, confident that the more intense the battle, the greater the glory!
So who’s with us?
Summer School August 2009
My anticipation voiced at the end of May’s newsletter came to fulfillment this summer. Looking back on the last 3 months, I have a lot of catching up to do, and “God’s summer school” is the best way to describe it! Here are the “courses” I took:
ADOLESCENT PSYCHOLOGY 101:
I have hosted my last foreign exchange student. Our 2 weeks with a 14 yr old Swiss-German girl were the longest of my life. Her school mandated that she attend a foreign school for cultural exchange and practical foreign language application. Her parents wanted a Christian school and we were asked to keep her. Initial e-mails were friendly, and we were excited. Then she arrived. She spoke as little as humanely possible. She lived on iced tea. After school she holed up with her friends on MSN all evening. I tried to be funny to get her to talk. I communicated my concerns to her parents. In the end, I gave up. David and Olivia communicated anything important to her in German. God bless her (and her parents too, for generously reimbursing us for our trouble!)
On the other hand, we will be hosting one of Olivia’s best friends this year 2 nights/week because as 8th graders, they will add Wednesday morning classes to their school schedule. Since “Pauline” lives quite a distance, and her younger siblings don’t come in on Wed., it is easier on the family for her to stay with us Tues. night -Thurs. morning. She has had visions of leading worship with Olivia, so we are planning for them to take voice lessons together as well.
I have not shared here my struggles with our current neighbors, but I finally got some breakthrough, so it’s worth telling now. On the ground floor, my kitchen window looks directly onto a paved private courtyard to which we have no access. It is an entryway for the landlord’s apartment and one of his rentals. This means we basically felt like zoo animals when in the kitchen. On top of that, our bedroom window faces the renter’s large kitchen window and balcony on the 2nd floor. In the warmer months, we share the lives of the loud renters pretty intimately as open windows are a necessity without a/c and sounds resonate off the concrete walls. So when a broken couple moved in with their young children last summer, it was a full-fledged attack on my heart. The kids were treated no better than dogs – let loose in the courtyard without supervision and screamed at from the balcony if anything went wrong. Of course the kids were curious about me, being in such close proximity, and would come to the window for a smile. Once I even passed some popcorn through the window to them. But the parents remained cold and distant, so I didn’t feel comfortable pursuing friendship with the kids, and we eventually put up frosted contact paper to create a privacy barrier. It was even more painful for me when the kids would climb on the window ledge and try to peer in. I would crank up my worship CDs to keep the anger from entering my house and my soul and I thanked God when pre-school started. But when their baby sister was born, a new form of torture began. I like to have my devotional time in my bedroom, but soon I started spending most of my time crying for the crying baby. (The landlord has kicked out loud renters before, but unfortunately, their noise seemed to coincide with the hours when he was running his sandwich shop down the street.)
Now dear readers, add to this scenario the onset of menopause, despairing thoughts of being left alone for 3 weeks when David visits Indiana in September and the conviction that we would never find the money for improving the ugly, worn areas of our home that I stare at everyday. So…we started praying over a house for sale in the quietest corner of Soultz, and I kept praying for that family – my heavy heart slowly turning from hatred to compassion.
And then suddenly one day, “Bam!” The landlord decreed that the children couldn’t play in the courtyard anymore and a great part of the noise was pushed back into their apt. Two weeks later a humble and anointed man landed in my living room for dinner and after listening to my heart, helped me see that the knee deep spiritual oppression that we live in was pulling me under after so many years here, and he strongly recommended a vacation outside the country – France isn’t called the “missionary graveyard” for nothing! He reminded me that “the devil is a bastard,” and he will kick that baby in the head if that will make me depressed and ineffective. Now that I see the situation with new eyes, I am no longer overcome by the victim spirit that reigns here (self-pity and powerlessness,) but will have victory by walking in the opposite spirit until I have the right to speak into my neighbor’s life (or one of us moves!)
This week I had my chance to love. I called out to my neighbor from my bedroom as she entered the courtyard. I smiled at her hard, ashen face and asked if she liked mirabelles and would she like some, since a friend gave us more than I could handle. She said ‘yes’ and I ran down to the kitchen window to pass them through. Don’t they look like the burning coals in Proverbs 25:21-22?
HOME DECORATING 101:
I am currently celebrating several generous deposits received throughout the summer! After our revelations about my state of mind, there was no question that the influx would be spent to beautify the bathroom and traffic areas at last. (And please don’t ask me why everyday paint is $20/pint in this country.) Though renovation is still out of the question, at least it will be appealing enough to sell, when we decide to move. Then when the money ran out and I unexpectedly needed to replace the frames of my glasses, I dumped all the cash in my wallet into the offering box the next Sunday to break the lie that I had hit my withdrawal limit with God. And lo and behold, another large deposit showed up a couple of days later that covers my glasses, plus back-to-school shopping for the kids and birthday gifts for David!
WEDDING PLANNING 102:
We received a record-breaking 4 wedding invitations this summer and felt like Charlie when he found the golden ticket in his Wonka bar. You see, when you receive a French wedding invitation, you are automatically invited to the ceremony and the social reception time. But only a select few, depending on the budget, find the additional meal ticket enclosed to participate in the late night banquet and entertainment. We got 2 golden tickets this year, which is a good sign that we are now considered part of the family! The first wedding took place in mid-July and it was so unique that I have to share some details:
#1: The bride fell in love just a few days after her mother renounced the negative words she had spoken over her growing up: “You are so strong-tempered that no one will want to marry you!” #2: We got the invitation 6 months in advance since the French make their reservations for summer holiday rentals in Jan-Feb. #3: The wedding took place at an ancient church with no foyer or convenient bathrooms. #4: The 2:30 ceremony was delayed at least 1 hr. – the irony being that the groom’s family was stuck in traffic, and they are Swiss, i.e. punctual! I spent the time roaming the village looking for a bathroom, and everything was closed on a Sat. afternoon! (And without the aforementioned church accoutrements, the bride waited patiently in a car nearby and stayed abreast of developments by cell phone.) #5: There were many small children in attendance whose parents weren’t prepared for the delay. As predicted, tired cries ensued from the balcony in the middle of the ceremony. When I asked someone if he always brought his young children, he replied, “Yes, because weddings are such casual events.”(!!) #6: Almost all the special music was performed in English – at least we enjoyed it! #7: The reception location was 30 min. away – too far for a tired and thirsty bunch of guests. Fortunately, I had brownies in the car, made for the reception, and handed out a few to some esp. desperate women who hadn’t eaten that day due to all the pre-wedding prep. #8: The banquet was held in a third location, right in our village. This enabled David to save the evening by walking home to loan our corkscrew and bread knife. (How could a French person forget the tools needed to enjoy bread and wine??) We left for good at 11:30 p.m. (missing the cheese and dessert courses) because we had to lead worship the next morning. When we learned that it went until 4 am, we warned Olivia that we were physically incapable of giving her a French wedding. Adjustments will have to be made!
TRENCH WARFARE 101:
You may recall that I was looking forward to a couple of seminars over the summer. They proved to be more like boot camp! The first was a banner seminar led by David Stanfield, (who ministered to me during my low point described in my sociology class above.) He brought our weapons: the huge, hand-painted silk banners that I saw at the France en Feu conference in May, and he gave us what we needed: good teaching and permission to enter in fully! When everyone grabbed a banner and headed to the parking lot, there were no spectators – we became a joyous, united, powerful army. What a prophetic picture of the week to come!
Rusty and Janet Richards followed his visit with their seminar based on the revival culture they have been living in the ministry school at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Nearing retirement age, they have sold everything to pay to attend this school, will return in Sept. for a second year, and then believe God will make a way for them to settle here. We can’t wait! (My not having an American sister in Christ around for encouragement and support has taken its toll on David!) Their 6 weeks here broke the curse over France that “nothing can advance in the summer” because of the sacred July-Aug “grandes vacances.” They also offered great teaching, quality materials (I’ve read 10 books by the various Bethel pastors that they brought along!) and permission to enter into the Kingdom of God more fully!
Rusty headed the charge by manning a worship altar in the basement of our church with his guitar, keyboard and watercolors in 3 hour slots 5 days/week. David padded it with 2 two hour slots in the evenings. You might call it our “secret weapon.” We were trained in resisting the enemy’s propaganda until we started believing in the power Jesus promised us through the Holy Spirit before He left. We also learned how the “Generals” of the Trinity secretly communicate intimately to us through all 5 of our senses. Then we put on our armor, left the walls of the church and made advances into enemy territory. We shared God’s love to strangers in the street with a game called a Treasure Hunt, and the French were amazed to see strangers open up for prayer! Bethel also takes healing very seriously – to the point of resuscitating the dead – and we saw the first fruits of healing here as we learned the keys of perseverance, boldness, and believing that it is always God’s will despite the outcome!
Janet also commandeered video training of the Bethel inner healing ministry for those of us who could follow spoken English. This was to form a MASH unit, as our church is very weak in pastoral care. If you recruit “soldiers” who are already wounded, they won’t last very long in the fight (and they believe this is what accounts for the high attrition rate of converts.) We expect our church to grow as we touch the neighborhood through our healing room and clothing bank, so we must be ready to do quick and effective surgery (without years of training) to get them on their feet. Our “commando unit” has already experienced healing by “operating” on each other and we look forward to further reinforcement and training from England after the Americans return home! (We also have Alana, mentioned in my last newsletter, returning in October to do some more spying out of the land!)
Obviously, we have exposed our position and the enemy is not happy about losing ground, “What is that miserable French church doing in the streets praying for people?? Who do they think they are?” So we take some losses and counterattacks, but refuse to give up ground. We rest and strengthen ourselves with prayer and fellowship in a trench that looks like this picnic lunch by a mountain lake until the next advance. And finally, I find a quiet moment to type this newsletter.
Thank you to those who read this far and are standing with us! Love, Angela
P.S. Since these battles are really just drills for, in C.S. Lewis’ words, “The Last Battle,” I thought it would be timely to give the link to a very unique End Times website that Rachel created for her web-coding class last quarter.
Adventures in Healing
We should have fastened our seatbelts to get through this month because it was such an adventure! In fact, you could say that God tried to warn us when we were pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt a couple of weeks ago! In the end, the police fined us for our worn front tires, and actually kept our registration until we replaced them (and we were given just 7 days to do it!) Even though we were $500 poorer, I actually felt a surprising gratefulness to them and to God for looking out for our well-being. This reaction is a welcome change from guilt for getting caught and anger over the unexpected expense. At least in this area, it’s good to see some fruit of the Spirit ripening in us.
May started with a drive to Lyon (4hrs) to attend an event (with some of our most eager worshipers in our church) for all the churches who are committed to building “altars of worship” associated with “France en Feu” (France on fire.) The goal is to have worship happening in France 24/7, and our church contributes one Friday night a month from 7-11pm. The Sat. was reserved for 12 hr. of solid worship, with breaks every 2 hours for the bands to change, and fasting was encouraged. I was so impressed with the music and the gorgeous silk banners being raised – French worship is coming into its glory at last! Here’s an excerpt from a new song we sang that weekend. During that time, I felt a strong impulse to pray over my thyroid, thinking it may be the source of some of my health issues. What was different was that I started talking to it tearfully like to an intimate friend, blessing it, etc. It sounds crazy, but since then my insomnia has left and my energy is definitely returning! And here’s another view of the event from an American friend, Alana, that attended with us.
A week later, a French prophet came to teach at our church for 4 days and David is the default daytime worship leader for events like this. With my newfound energy, I was able to get up and out early every morning to project the lyrics for him. This meant we could attend the seminar for free and receive a personal prophecy that resonated with us both and gave us a shot in the arm concerning how to pray into our future roles here.
The ride continued when we had to spend a day in Strasbourg to renew our passports. David and I usually avoid tourism and big outings because lots of walking results in pain and exhaustion. Well, we walked at least 5 hr. that day, and though David’s knee started aching towards the end, it was the first time in ages that I didn’t have to spend the following day in bed to recover. As an added bonus, the whole consulate visit felt like a big hug, and it was also the beginning of a fabulous, headache-free, activity-filled weekend with my French friend from Paris (whom I hadn’t seen in 18 months.) What a gift that was.
I’m still waiting for a breakthrough for my headaches and my hormone-related migraines are bad enough that I wanted to give birth control pills a try. So I paid my first visit to a French gynecologist this month, whom I have avoided because they are notorious for their awful bedside manner. Unfortunately, Dr. Hassenforder lived up to the stereotype and offered me one option. I assumed it was what I had asked for, not being familiar with French drug names, and started taking it. Very quickly I felt neutered, suicidal, and my migraines doubled. David finally became concerned enough to take authority over my depression, and as he prayed, I felt pain in my ear. At the “amen” the pain was gone and so was the darkness! Whew! When I finally googled it, I found out it was a testosterone inhibitor, (unavailable in the U.S.,) used to ‘hormonally neuter” certain male criminals, to put it gently. I could not believe my eyes and stopped the treatment immediately.
Although I am eager to continue walking in more miraculous healing for myself and the lost around me, I also know that God can work through suffering, if we will embrace it as Jesus embraced the cross. I could respond to a sleepless night due to a migraine with growing resentment and disillusionment towards God, or I can meditate on the crown of thorns (migraine parallel) that Jesus endured on my behalf and weep with love and gratitude, privileged to “share in his suffering, in order to share in His glory.” (Rom 8:17) What does that glory look like for us earth dwellers? The Message version of Gal. 5:22 gives us a good picture with a great twist on this familiar passage.
There are no guarantees that life will get easier, and many are hinting that this is the beginning of the end! Though other missionaries are being “laid off” from their church-supported organizations, we are pleased to report that we have not lost any support and David’s skills have provided plenty of ways to make some pocket money: giving some beginner instrument lessons, diagnosing sick PCs, and IT support. Now he is even having to say “no.” I am not advertising my English teaching until my headaches are more under control (and I’m starting a natural treatment soon, thanks to an angel named Rosie.) Well, actually I’m tutoring an 8th and 9th grader in English for free right now, but in the meantime, I’m asking my Father to show me his strategy for finding the right paying students for the future. I am eager to bring the kingdom of God to my village in concrete ways and this may be one of them! Anyway, my plate is also so full of hospitality in June, that I cannot imagine doing anything more: Noah returns home for the summer, a Swiss-German exchange student stays with us the first 2 weeks of June, American construction teams arrive for 4 weeks at the school, and our friends, the Richards, are arriving to connect and minister for the summer. They have been living in the healing revival environment at Bethel Church in Redding, CA for the past year and we are eager to receive from them!
I’d like to end this letter with a video by Sigur Ros – an Icelandic band that all 3 of my kids are crazy about. Though I don’t think the band members are believers, their music and videos have a prophetic quality that touches my spirit and makes me weep. This video illustrates my thoughts above in a very artistic way – Through these children, I see Jesus and his followers overcoming obstacles on the rocky journey of life, but the glory is waiting in the end! Click on the album cover, fasten your seatbelts and tell me what you think…
Almost Twenty Questions
The last 2 months have been such a hodge-podge of events that a running theme has been impossible to nail down. What better way to pique your curiosity and get all the news out than with a little quiz? Questions are roughly in chronological order. Good luck.
|1. What did Olivia’s French science teacher do with the rabbit after dissecting it with her class?|
|Take it home and eat it, of course!|
|2. What has Angela been doing every Tues. afternoon since the last newsletter?|
|Continuing to talk and pray with her neighborhood friend, who has also joined her fitness class! The best part is that since she is Libyan/British, she and her family can also borrow and benefit from our English Christian books and films.|
|3. The Leighs hosted several people in the last 2 months, ranging from one meal to a 2 week’s stay. Who was NOT included in this list?|
|4. What has proven to be the greatest threat to lice survival on Olivia’s head?|
|Mayonnaise. Thank you, Mary, for helping us see the light at the end of the hair shaft!|
|5. What award-winning film did Angela and David see with free passes to celebrate her 47th birthday?|
|Slumdog Millionaire – we really appreciated seeing spiritual truth presented in a creative way: that God uses all that life throws at us for our good.|
|6. Why is it impossible to celebrate a birthday properly on a Sunday?|
|Because while this is a popular day for a family movie outing in France, everything else, including nice restaurants, are closed for the sabbath, even in a big city!|
|7. How far did the Leighs have to drive to renew their passports?|
|We drove 2 hours to Bern, the Swiss capital.|
|8. Why were they so rudely refused at the embassy and how did they salvage the day?|
|We were told that they only process Swiss residents and to go to Geneva. (It looks like we might not have to go any further than Strasbourg in the end.) We recovered while enjoying my belated birthday meal, witnessing a doctor’s strike/protest(!), savoring a Starbucks, visiting Einstein’s apt., where he developed his theory of relativity while working at the local patent office, and buying hot dogs and Daims at IKEA for dinner on the way home.|
|9. How did the Leighs make the Holy week holier this year?|
|We learned how to make palm crosses on Palm Sunday, and Angela created a journal for the week for everyone with a passage of scripture to meditate on and pray over each day. The night before Easter we had 2 free tickets to attend Bach’s Saint John’s Passion at Olivia’s music school (in the setting of their ancient abbey sanctuary with perfect acoustics.) It is sung in German, but Olivia’s 3 years of German meant that she could translate at least 1/2 of it!|
|10. What Easter main dish did Angela cook for the first time this year?|
|A leg of lamb – it turned out great, served 5 people, and there were still leftovers!|
|11. Who were the last-minute honored guests (see question #3 for choices!)|
|The pastor and his youngest son, who were ALONE and had NO invitation for Easter dinner!!|
|12. What is now in Angela’s mouth that cost as much as a plane ticket back to the States?|
|They aren’t any cheaper here – a porcelain crown.|
|13. What certificate is Angela currently working towards on-line?|
|Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and getting good grades too. Should be done in a couple of weeks.|
|14. How did David get more mileage out of Olivia’s blessing ceremony last weekend?|
|He gave a sermon for our Sat. night service on the topic of blessing and lots of people came forward for prayer afterwards. Here’s proof that he can speak French…|
|15. Who is David working with under his new right-to-work status ?|
|A South African family with whom we became friends 7 years ago in language school is living and working a few hours away. Pierre is trying to make a living with web commerce and recently lost his IT help. David has agreed maintain his web sites, dedicated web server and the business functions that run on it on a part-time basis while continuing the “worship and technology” ministry at school and church.|
|16. What famous person opened a restaurant in our village recently?|
|The former personal chef for Jacques Chirac – now Soultz is really worth a visit!|
|18. And the final French culture question for an extra bonus point:
What do French McDonald’s employees say when they have to bring your sandwich to your table?
|“Bon appétit!” (and never, “Sorry for the wait!”)|
Thanks for playing!
Bern surrounded by the Aare River
The cats are an important part of the family that don’t get much press, so we’re making it up to them by letting Gumdrop write this month’s news.
Well, the house has been a little noisier this month. The big guy in particular seems to be addressing our Creator in a no nonsense way. Last week he even drove 2 hours to a bridge and stood in the driving rain to declare that “a real YWAM Alsace would take root and as an adopted son of Alsace he would walk as an adopted son of the King and no longer as a slave.”Two days later when the phone rang, he got really loud, running towards the missus, narrowly missing my tail, yelling, “TEN YEARS!” whatever that means. They walked over to the mayor’s office and when they came back the big guy looked a foot taller and the missus had wet cheeks. I think this is the latest ceiling tile that the missus was waiting to drop. The big guy is already getting paid for giving guitar lessons to a girl in the village who wants to join her worship team. He also wants to start a part-time computer repair business. The missus is suddenly very motivated about getting certified to teach English as a Second Language. Apparently, renovating our habitat no longer sounds like an impossible dream…
It’s been a good month in general. One day, I was moved to jump into the lap of the missus and give her some lovin’. Her cheeks got wet again, and I think it’s because I made her wait 4 years for this moment. I don’t know why it me took so long, considering that she’s the one who cleans my litterbox and picks up what I regurgitate. I think Creator had a hand in the timing and used me as his messenger boy, (even though I am an adult female.) It played out like this: She had been feeling pretty “shlumpy” once the glow of the blessing ceremony had worn off. The big guy was horizontal with the flu for a week, she was having relational tension with several people at once, and one of her students transferred to another school, (reducing her hours to almost nil.) Then one day a neighbor friend knocked on our door while we were home alone. Their family had been struggling with the immature behavior of their 13 yr old son for many years and that day it had come to a head. She could not continue like this any longer and wanted to ask Creator together for an answer. So they cried out for mercy and agreed to meet every week until they had a breakthrough. That very evening, this neighbor called a long-distance friend who started describing a syndrome that her big guy struggles with. It sounded like her son. A quick look at the glowing box gave her a pretty good indication that his behavior was not his fault. Immediately, all their anger turned to grief and compassion and their son’s attitude has completely changed, as well as the atmosphere in their habitat. The missus is completely bowled over by Creator’s quick attention to this matter, and my long-awaited display of affection turned into a very physical reminder of how He feels about her and her prayers.
Our Precious (Olivia) just got glasses and can now enjoy our antics from a distance. I am also getting much more empathy with our ongoing fight against fleas since she’s been battling head lice. We are beginning to look like a family of orangutans: Precious sits and picks at me while the missus nit-picks Precious. The big guy keeps his distance and is grateful for his balding head. The French call them “poux,” which is pronounced “poo,” which is a pretty good translation.
Precious disappeared for a whole weekend while her parents hosted guests who were attending the annual French-speaking Christian teacher’s conference. I’m always restless when Precious is gone, and panicky when strangers are in the house. The missus battled constant migraines and dismissed any hope of celebrating Valentine’s Day. The big guy carried the sound and recording of the weekend on his shoulders, including the set-up and tear-down of the stage twice for a theatrical production. It was a tough weekend for all of us. But 260 teachers (and even a few home-schooling missuses!) from Belgium, Switzerland, and France got their one yearly dose of encouragement to continue fighting the good fight. Her miserable weekend prompted the missus to go to a “healing room” for some concentrated prayer and she’s going to start getting noisier too, telling those headaches that they are not welcome, instead of expecting them to drop by.
One of my favorite pastimes is watching paper wiggle out of a humming gray box. When I hear the machine come to life, I leap into position for the best view, which is also near the big glowing box that my family loves to stare at. Anyway, in this position, I’ve noticed that several anonymous deposits have appeared on the glowing box this month. I think they are still walking in the blessing of Precious, but apparently a bunch of books that they ordered still haven’t arrived, so I’ll bet they’d love for you all to put in a reminder to Creator about that. Speaking of books, the BFA book swap was recently attended by the missus again this year and Creator made sure that she got lots of books she’d been wanting – all for free!
Halloween seems to be celebrated in February in Europe and it’s called Carnival. From a window a safe distance away, I watched costumed schoolchildren parade through the streets of Soultz throwing confetti and using “fur-raising” noisemakers. The bakeries sell beignets to enjoy during the 2 week school break and I’m told they are delicious. My family is spending this time renewing their passports, which is no longer a simple matter, due to the fight against child trafficking. Precious and big guy jr. have to be seen in person at the closest US Embassy, which means a 2 hr drive to Switzerland. Their government has also gotten picky about the identity photos, so they have to travel to a professional photographer in another city and pay a lot of money for 8 small, but exacting images. Life may be getting more complicated in the fight against evil, but I think Creator put us felines here as a reminder that rest and peace is still possible, especially in the company of my distant cousin, the Lion of Judah.
Well, the paws are pretty petered out. Thank you for reading. This was almost as tiring as all the tongue-bathing I do all day.
I think I’ve earned a nap.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings…
Forgive me Readers, for I have sinned.
It’s been 3 months since my last newsletter. This month’s title is my excuse, and I think you’ll agree that it is a good one, once you’ve read to the end. I don’t think I have ever organized this many blessed gatherings in such a short period of time. Since the title is culled from a Thanksgiving hymn, let’s start there.
I was ready to give up the holiday for good this year. Olivia has no American memories of Thanksgiving since we left the country when she was 3, and the other 2 will no longer be home for it. I also wasn’t gearing up for a big classroom event since I’m not teaching English. But a struggling family and a single friend had all but invited themselves over, so desperate they were to experience this uniquely American holiday, despite my hints that without the football and family, it’s nothing more than a big meal. However, the more foreign mandatory ingredients are easier to find every year, and my friend even wanted to play the role of the Indian and pay for the turkey breast! (Yes, they brought most of the meat to that first big meal.) Keeping in mind that my own children were picky eaters, it was worth all the effort to watch the 9 year old guest wolf down his food, ask for seconds and declare my meal worthy of, not 4, but 6 stars, even when the only food he was familiar with was the turkey and green beans! It did not remotely resemble a starchy all-you-can-eat-buffet, but they still had trouble finding room for the pie, which was a slight disappointment, since I had made my first homemade French pie crust. (It was so much easier and fun(!) than the American version. Here’s a great little how-to video on my favorite French recipe site.) Anyway, we replaced the football with descriptions of the suffering pilgrims using our Thanksgiving picture books and sang of “the wicked oppressing, now cease from distressing” and other Thanksgiving favorites, setting a mildly Puritanical tone that put our guests in an almost hushed reverence.
Back in Sept. I was trying to figure out a way to prepare Olivia for her blessing/purity ceremony in Jan. In the end, I penned my first 6-week study for 7th grade girls on some of the basic themes of the Song of Solomon, illustrated through 4 fairy tales, and entitled, “How to Become a Princess in 6 weeks.” We invited all 9 girls from her class to come over straight from school each Friday night and they all squeezed onto my big American couch, nibbled on American snacks, worshiped with songs taken from the Song of Solomon, discussed the homework questions, and then listened to, read, or watched the next fairy tale together. None of them had ever read the Song of Solomon before, but I believed that if I could convey the emotions of Jesus that are found in this “love letter” for them before the storms of adolescence approach, they would have much smoother sailing. Some were more ready for it than others, but I know good seeds were planted, and the best part was that I was walking in a grace that made it very light. The fact that they are all sweet girls who like each other and love Olivia made it even better. Our final gathering happened the week after Thanksgiving when we created self-portraits based on the verses: “Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as a troop with banners?” and “Set me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm,” (using a real blood red wax seal with Jesus’ initial on it!) The results would provide wonderful prophetic decor for Olivia’s big night.
A week after that, I was asked to decorate our church restaurant for the teacher’s annual Christmas meal. Unfortunately I was only given one day’s notice, which is just a little stressful for someone with residual perfectionist tendencies, but David+Olivia’s entire class joined me for an hour giving me 20 more sets of hands that were invaluable. The humble brown paper lunch bag is non-existent in France, so a welcoming entrance lit up by luminaria always impresses. It was a costume party and since I had worked in the cold up to the last minute, I raced home and put on the most comfortable thing I could think of – my flannel pajamas and slippers. It was prophetic as well – I came home at midnight with a sore throat and joined David in bed, who had already succumbed. (We had a different chef this year that offered only 3 courses, but the foie gras was still good, followed by rabbit in mushroom sauce with spaetzle, (thick German noodles) cooked veggies, and a light sorbet dessert.)
Rachel and Noah came home 2 days later. A couple of months before, we were waiting to see if extra support money would come in when we needed to jump on a ticket purchase for Rachel. When it didn’t, I started trying to imagine Christmas without her. I couldn’t. So I did a daring thing and bought the ticket anyway, using money set aside for upcoming bills. Well, Christmas money did start coming in and the bills were paid, but Christmas morning with sick parents and empty stockings could have looked pretty bleak, even for 3 non-materialistic teenagers.
Well, Rachel’s arrival brought so much joy that she might as well have traveled by sleigh – she added presents to her presence, and even filled the stockings! Only when she becomes a mother will she realize what a burden she took from me.
Every year I fantasize about winter family outings that never materialize. This year was no different. (I could host a pity party, but that would be yet another gathering that I don’t need!) I also think we are not the only ones: Sickness kept us from attending a Christmas concert. The abnormally cold temperatures kept us from going to the mountains for some snow time. We had planned to rent “Horton Hears a Who” as our family Christmas movie, but it had been damaged by the previous renter. A museum exhibit that we wanted to see was closed during the days that worked for us, etc. It’s a good thing we like being together because in the end, we hibernated. It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve that the kids all managed to escape the house and gather with friends for a few days. Back in good health, this allowed David and I to have a much-needed intimate gathering of our own over wine, cheese, and a great little French flick. (After 6 years, we can finally enjoy a French movie in French – a real ego boost, believe me!) Then Olivia had to go back to school while the rest of us started feverishly organizing her ceremony.
Craig Hill of Family Foundations has written a couple of good books on restoring “the ancient paths” that God instituted, but that modern society has discarded. Generational blessing is one of them. Go to their site for a great description of this concept. We wanted to combine that with her purity vows on her 13th birthday, and do it publicly in order to model this to families in our church and school, as a way to deal with that lack of spiritual fathering that I wrote about a year ago. We experienced quite a bit of enemy attack during the last week, but rather than upsetting me, it was very encouraging, because then I knew we were taking ground for the Kingdom rather than just providing entertainment!
It was a great family effort – I couldn’t have done it without my kids. David and I relived our pre-wedding nerves. Rachel got a glimpse of what planning her own wedding would be like, and played her sweet violin. Noah moved a lot of furniture and played photographer. Olivia simply radiated. I started off the evening by describing my vision for the princess class and had some of the girls share the theme of each week. Then the girls performed one of the songs we learned, which we have posted on youtube for your enjoyment! David followed with a teaching on the biblical reason for blessing children at this stage of their life: to seal their identity and release their destiny! Then he called up Olivia, got on his knees, and blessed her in English, while the guests read their printed translation. When he finished, (it was lengthy) he crowned her with a garland and they waltzed to a Boccherini minuet that Olivia loves. When the 2nd movement started, the “princesses” did a circle dance around her and offered her a rose as she turned with each of them arm in arm. Then David and I came forward and listened to her recite from memory her purity vows which came directly from the following verses: 2 Tim 2:22, Ps 101:1-6, Prov 1:8 & 3:5-6. We followed that with a reading of our own vows: in short, to be the most supportive parents we could be during her adolescence, and then we gave her a ring. Rachel translated all of that and then invited the audience to offer up their own prayers and blessings, and many did. We finished with the second song from the class (another video!) and then gave them the opportunity to order the book, which has been translated by the Canadians. (If it wasn’t for them, a lot of spiritual resources would not be available to the French. Have you hugged a Canadian today?) Anyway, our guests were so moved by the event that 13 of the 17 families ordered a copy, including our “pre-Christian” neighbors!! As Rachel says, “Yeah God!”
Nothing says “princess” like an angel food cake, so we cut up 4 of them for the reception. “Ho hum” for Americans perhaps, but a real novelty for the French. Before departing, they signed our guest book in the form of a poster illustrating a cute cutaway of a princess’s castle, filled with fairy tale references. Olivia now has their “love” hanging over her bed as a reminder of an evening that was just as she had dreamed it would be.
So when we gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing, He did. And then it gets even better…
On the day before and the day after the ceremony, 2 deposits were made into our accounts. Combined, they made the biggest deposit we’d ever received in 8 years on the field! The timing of this blessing (around the blessing of Olivia) really got our attention, and we have real anticipation that God is putting things in place in 2009. Last month we submitted our annual request to stay in the country, and each year we hope they will get tired of processing us and give us the 10 yr. visa that gives David the right to work. This year we were encouraged by the mayor’s office to ask specifically for one and submit additional evidence to increase the chance of a favorable response. But whether we get it or not, David is still motivated to plant a seed towards a work permit by investing in some business start-up equipment with our latest gift. He has even dusted off our copy of “The Prayer of Jabez” and is getting new insights! We’ll let you know the outcome in the next newsletter…
So the day before Rachel had to fly back, we took our happy debit card to the store and bought our very own copy of “Horton Hears a Who.” (Many have seen the anti-abortion message hidden within, but has anyone besides my daughter seen the events of “the last days” alluded to in this movie??) Knowing this was our last family gathering for long while made it hard to end the evening. But resting in the fact that our kids are walking in blessing makes separation a lot easier.
A blessed 2009 to you all,
“I’m Trading My Sorrows…
…I’m trading my shame, I’m laying ’em down for the joy of the Lord…”
I don’t know about you, but when I sang this song on Sunday mornings, the joy didn’t last very long (as if singing a 3-minute song would heal our deep-seated issues!) But these lyrics suddenly work as I write a follow-up on open heavens, and I thought the verb “trading” was very appropriate for the economic shaking that we’re living right now.
After 4 years, Olivia had had enough piano sorrows to take last year off. Over the summer a girlfriend reminded her of the pleasures to be found within, and she traded her old teacher for a new one at the music school last month. Her joy (and desire to practice) has definitely returned, and I think it symbolizes what is going on in her heart as well. Last year, we were praying that God would make himself known to her, and that she would walk in more joy, (since that is her middle name) while she mourned that her Bible was just ink on paper and her prayers bounced off her ceiling. Then a few months ago during a youth worship time, He answered! She got a powerful vision of her future, and she has been “on fire” ever since: writing love letters to Jesus, reading her Bible at the kitchen table over breakfast, counseling her troubled friends, correcting my negativity, and asking forgiveness even before being confronted with her own faults. To celebrate this blessing, I’m starting to write a 7-week curriculum to prepare her and her closest friends for her 13th birthday purity ceremony. (True Love Waits is unheard of here!)
Noah traded in his French school sorrows last month for Black Forest Academy: a French ninth-grader is the “big man on campus” in junior high, but with it comes the pressure to decide your future and choose the appropriate high school (literature-focused, science/math, agriculture, technical?) Back in the American system, he is now just a lowly freshman with no worries about the future for a couple more years. His current passion is photography and he was getting frustrated with no outlet here at home with an average camera and limited subjects. (Me to Noah: “I am not downloading another picture of the cats!!”) But at BFA they put out a yearbook, which means they have really nice cameras available to use to record the year’s school activities. Needless to say, Noah has found his calling. He has more fun behind the lens than actually participating in the events, but at least he is present and engaged in a variety of settings. Add a daily dreaded gym class (and I quote: “Flag football is so pointless!”) and he is suddenly leading a much more balanced life than his relatively sedentary and rather solitary existence with us. It is a relief to see his joy returning + his high grades posted on the Internet with no supervision or help from us. (We tore our hair out trying to produce 6 lengthy book reports in French every year!)
To keep up with Rachel’s joys, sorrows, and current projects, go to her beautiful blog: https://rachel.leighweb.com/
David recently traded in his workaholic tendencies for the joy that only comes by slowing down.
In the last couple of years, God has allowed him to struggle with a mysterious physical weakness exacerbated by stress.
David is learning with St. Paul to delight in weakness that leads to spiritual strength. (2 Cor. 12:9) Our marital relationship was positively impacted as soon as he took the practical step of working at school only till lunch, then turning work “off” and being engaged with God and me in the afternoons, and Olivia in the evenings. He has morphed into the man I fell in love with 23 years ago, and he claims he’s not even trying!
David has been involved with a European intercession initiative that met together off the coast of Spain for recently. Thanks to some generous gifts over the summer, I got to tag along, allowing us to celebrate our anniversary properly for the first time in a long time! All the same, the weather forecast for Palma de Majorca was “stormy,” the organizers picked a 3-star hotel, we didn’t speak the local language, and we would be depending on public transportation. This is a recipe for high stress in David’s cookbook and it does not go well with the wine of romance! But we had a great time together, even while watching the non-stop angst-ridden news coverage of the economic bailout on the hotel room TV!
While the hotel was a disappointment, the storms never materialized, and I basked in the sunshine with a good book during the meetings, while taking authority over the yippy Pomeranians next door. Having my emotional and physical cup filled up on a daily basis by a relaxed and loving man meant that I wasn’t coming into the trip empty, and demanding that he fill all my pent-up needs in a single weekend. And wasn’t he relieved! The undercurrent of negative emotions that I carried for so long and felt so guilty about have all but disappeared, just like that. This feels like “open heaven” stuff to me and it can only be the beginning. God heals us for a greater purpose than just to make us happy, esp. living in a country where a healthy marriage is so rare that kissing in public could be considered spiritual warfare! When a man walks as a prophetic image of Jesus as the faithful and passionate bridegroom coming for his bride, he is not just being a good role model for the French – he is also reminding the enemy that the real King is coming and he is a defeated liar.
And finally, I traded the sorrows of last year’s burdensome schedule (of monitoring 50 kids for lunch duty and teaching 2 difficult classes without any support) for the joy of working one-on-one. As a former home-schooling mom, this is what I believe in, esp. after seeing so many kids struggle in the distraction of a classroom setting. Meet Victor and Jean-Baptiste – yes, the English translation is “John the Baptist.” They are loving 12 yr olds in clumsy bodies with 7 yr old minds who can no longer integrate well with the primary school kids in the afternoons (after working on core subjects with their own teacher in the mornings.) So I was asked to keep them busy 6 hrs/week. This is twice the hours I put in last year, but it has been so much lighter! Legos, computer games, field trips, and Bible crafts fill up our time together. John the Baptist (on the left) was pretty autistic when he arrived here a few years ago and has since completely come out of his shell. Even better, he has the joy of the Lord, singing worship songs all day long, though his family remains unbelievers. (I know, you saying, “So why did they name him…?” France is like that – Catholic traditions are so rooted in the culture that they are used without any understanding by secular society.)
So along with David, these boys are walking in another facet of “strength in weakness,” blessing not only God’s heart, but mine as well.
“…yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes Lord, AMEN!”
The Sky is Falling and Other Good News
While sitting in the multi-purpose room of the school during a particularly rainy week last spring, a sodden ceiling tile fell directly on my head. Checking it off as “accidents happen,” I went on with my life. And then I flew to America last month, where I attended a showing of WALL-E with Rachel to celebrate her birthday, and it happened again: We seemed to have brought the rain with us to New Mexico, and in a large, sparsely populated theater, a ceiling tile fell directly on me. Then I started crying, not because it hurt, but because my spirit sensed that God was definitely trying to get in touch with me in a very personal and dramatic way. I went to an AGLOW meeting that night with great anticipation, but nothing revelatory happened until I got on the plane to come home, where, during take-off, a plastic part the size of a light switch plate fell off the ceiling and landed right at my feet. Looking around the plane, I didn’t see another one like it anywhere, and after reassuring God that I was definitely listening, I was filled with a peace knowing that He was accompanying me during the dreaded lonely flight back.
Holes in the ceiling are bad news in the natural realm, but in the spiritual realm, I’m looking for an “open heaven.” Isaiah cried,”Oh that you would rend the heavens!” because when the heavens are open we have free access to everything in heavenly realms – God’s abundant blessings and ministry power. Ministering under an open heaven is like working hard without getting tired. What missionary doesn’t want more of that in their life (esp. ones heading toward 50!)??
Looking back, I believe I saw the first fruits of that while in Indianapolis getting Rachel settled with family. You should know that on both sides, every immediate family member is a Christian. At the same time, we are very reserved about sharing with each other spiritually – I guess we’re all in different places on the journey. But during this trip, not just one, but TWO close family members testified to Rachel and I with complete transparency about how God had recently freed them from life-long addictions!! The heavens were definitely open over my family and my trip in general – more proof and photos to follow!
Prophetic voices also happen to be predicting an open heaven over Europe starting this fall. With Rachel out of the nest and Noah on his way (to start his freshman yr. at BFA, pending the opening of a bed in the dorms,) my full-time motherhood season is quickly coming to an end. After 4 yrs. in Soultz, I am ready to change my ministry roles because, guess what? I can lead worship for large groups, teach English to young children, and host English-speaking teams all without ever improving my French or getting closer to Jesus! So in order to boot myself out of my comfort zone and more deeply into the arms of God, I have shared with the church leadership team that we would like to open our home for a cell group as a seed for a house of prayer and worship – that means learning to teach, pray, and love a small group of people in French on a regular basis, risking all the stuff that can go wrong, which we have avoided until now! The foundational teachings would be from the International House of Prayer, and a French friend who is a nightwatch intercessor there has recently started translating their teachings and songs, leaving us no excuses! I would also like to befriend Olivia’s friends and peers more deeply. They are drawn to our family and share their burdens freely with Olivia. Now that Olivia has shared them with me, I am eager to gain their trust and help the hungry ones to gain a greater intimacy with their Lord, healing wounds before they get too deep. We’ll keep you posted on how it all plays out and whether I’ve correctly interpreted “the signs from the skies!”
And now more highlights from the trip…
- When we didn’t receive enough gifts for another plane ticket, it was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t realize how much I needed a vacation just for me without the weight of the family (not counting Rachel.) This was a first, and I am so grateful to David for letting me go for 27 whole days – I relished every single minute!
- We did receive a lot of extra gifts during my stay, which enabled me to fill every lack we had felt in the last year, and it all fit into 3 suitcases!
- It was so comforting to spend lots of uninterrupted time with my parents in a place where they are really at home. (They were on the move during the same time that we were for a few years.) Here is the only earthly place where I can be a daughter that is loved unconditionally. The only way I could capture that renewed feeling of belonging was to take lots of photos of 3 generations of matching feet (Rachel’s, mine, and my dad’s.)
- A jaunt to Lake Tahoe to visit my sister as a new mom was also a precious gift from my parents. Her beautiful almost 2 yr. old welcomed us with none of the shyness that all the kids in our family were plagued with. Because “Aunt Angela” was too hard to spit out, we came up with the French substitute “Tatie.” Playing with her brought back all kinds of wonderful memories of my own kids in what seems like another lifetime.
- 7 of David’s family members were at the airport to warmly welcome us when we finally landed in Indianapolis. David’s parents moved out of his old childhood home last Christmas and like my parents, they seem very happy in their new digs at this stage in their lives. Rachel was very ready to say good-bye to the 4 suitcases that she had packed and unpacked, weighed, and re-packed for the last 3 weeks. She has a bathroom and 2 other rooms to call her own, and lost no time in transforming them. My hope is that they will pass on their wisdom from lives well-lived in Indy for the last 40 years, and that she will earn her keep as their personal IT consultant, among other things!
- We spent one weekend with my wonderful brother and his wife where a mini-family reunion was held. My 98 yr. old grandfather that I saw last year is still going strong, despite Alzheimer’s, and it was a delight to spend the afternoon with him and my uncle’s family, whose kids are just a little older than Rachel(!)
- I discovered that my intestines had become French without warning me and by the last week I was eating nothing but small portions of plain home-cooked food. Praise God – eating out has lost all its attraction and I didn’t gain any weight!
- Due to gas prices, getting a 3rd bag overseas now costs a whopping $150. But because Rachel was flying to PA the same day and traveling light, I left my 3rd bag with her, and she handed it off to the French team from our church with whom she was prayer-walking. (One of them who only brought 1 bag can take mine for free.) Click here to read about her special week…
- During my return flight, the other blessing, besides the flying plastic, was a half empty plane so that I could stretch out across 3 seats whenever I felt like it during those 9 hours. Back home, the rest of my family greeted me almost as though I’d been raised from the dead – there was visible relief that I was back in charge of the home, though I was doing it in the middle of the night since it took me a week to get over jet-lag! After staying in beautiful American homes and attending beautiful churches, I am finding the motivation and enough money to finish some painting projects. But as “the incredible shrinking family,” we’re asking God if it’s time to think about a move to a renovated place in a quieter neighborhood…
Looking up! Angela
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