Shutters

It’s always darkest before you open the shutters. I posted that on facebook to be snarky and funny.

I was wondering why it was so dark in our living room, looked up and saw the shutters closed.  I walked over and pushed the button to allow the electric motor to roll them up into their daytime hiding spot. As they slowly rolled upwards, light flooded into the room; bringing a freshness to the room that was needed and welcomed.

It started me thinking. What areas in my life is shuttered off? What area could use a bit of sunlight, freshness, or renewing?

Shutters have their place. They have their role. They protect windows from storms, they provide a barrier needed when things are rough and dark. In some ways they keep the warmth of the house inside. I have never before lived in a house with working shutters so they have taken me a bit of adjusting to get used to using them. Normally my family doesn’t shut them so that morning it was a surprise they were closed. I don’t remember shutting them last night. It was dark when I woke up this morning so I didn’t notice at first they were closed. But they were and the refreshing sunlight was being blocked from enter my house.  Paris doesn’t get sun that often in the winter and here I was blocking it out with shutters.

Are there relationships I have shuttered because of a storm? Are there emotions I have shuttered because they seem too dark to handle? Have I closed the shutters on opportunities for fear of failure? Has the storm passed in that area of my life and I need to allow the light of God’s word to penetrate deeper into that area?

I get the need for shutters. I understand that in this world we live in it is too hard to leave our lives completely open all the time. Too many people ready to take a shot at our weaknesses or to misuse our openness. But how many times have we left the shutters closed and missed out on life giving sunlight shining into our lives? Missed out on life giving relationships because we have shuttered our lives from those around us?

Life is relationships. We were not meant to live it alone and the most important relationship, the relationship that we were created to be in, that is the relationship we often shutter off the most. We do not trust that our Creator, our loving Heavenly Father who longs for a relationship with us; will not hurt us. We refuse to open the shutters to allow Him into all areas of our lives thinking, He will, in some way hurt us. Or maybe we don’t want to allow healing in an area of our lives. Maybe we have just forgotten we have closed the shutter to that area.

The sunlight warmed me up that morning as the shutters rolled up. You too can allow the light of Christ to warm the dark places in your life. Roll up those shutters.

What about you? Are there areas in your life that, for too long, have been closed off? Are there relationships that you have given up on for fear of pain? Are there areas in your life that have been closed off to the work of the Holy Spirit?

Let the light of God’s word bring healing, let the warmth of the Holy Spirit warm your heart.  Throw open the shutters.

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Boasting…..Raeni

Sparkle and glitter!

That is what I think makes up great art. My favorite art exhibit I have seen was at the Kohler Art Museum in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The moment I walked into the teeny tiny house I thought, this is art I get. Simply, a man known as the Rhinestone Cowboy, had covered every surface of his house in the construction paper and glitter that you find in a first grade classroom. Every surface!

Drop me in Paris several years later. I have seen beautiful art. I have seen in person so many of the classics that were presented to me in my required and much loathed fine arts class in college. Obviously art is not my thing. Today, on the top of my list of things to do – organizing an art show. All I can think – I am over my head on this one.

Next on my list, teaching. In February, Tony and I will start teaching people English as a way to form new relationships. One class is a low key conversational group with people who want to practice speaking and the other a class for beginners. Teaching… I am pretty sure that if I took a test of what your occupation should be it would say NEVER TEACH. Those words would be bold and underlined in the results. Yet here I go. Again, I feel the waves crashing over me knowing I am over my head.

Yesterday, I made Tony sit down and drink some coffee and write a list with me. Tony hates lists so bribing him with coffee is necessary. Usually, I am a list writer by nature, and he just finds my lists scattered around. For the past few days my head had been swirling and I was unable to move forward, I couldn’t even write a list, because I had so many things I was thinking about. I needed Tony to just listen and write down all the things I thought needed to be done. Slowly, as things got written down and some of my “must get dones” were passed off to him, the list doesn’t seem so long.

However, in my humanness, I look at some of the things on my list and think this is not what I am equipped for, not at all in my gift mix, not what I went to school for or even what I thought I would be doing in Paris.

Yet in this crazy awesome adventure, I know that I have God to rely on. I, like Paul in 2 Corinithians, will boast about my weakness. God’s grace is sufficient. He can use my weakness for His glory. I can not wait to see how this all turns out.

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They had been with Jesus…Tony

This morning I prayed for my daughters to be blessings at their schools. I prayed that the love of Christ would flow out from them and that people would see the person and spirit of Christ in them. It’s a prayer I pray often for them. And honestly I believe it to be a prayer that is being answered.

The Friday before Christmas, I took the girls into Paris to watch “La Reigne des Neiges” (Frozen) in the theater. As we walked onto the platform towards the front of the train so that it would be easier to get off at the end of the line, we encountered Fayth’s teacher from last year. She greeted us and we started a conversation that continued the whole 21 minute train ride,  about life, school, death, and Americans. She mentioned again how much she enjoyed having Fayth in her class and how nice in general Americans are here in Viroflay. Having met the other American she was referring to I know something about her, she also is a believer. She also has Christ in her the hope of glory. I know that Christ in people is not the only thing that makes people nice. In fact, sadly, I have met many not nice Christians. But what I believe people see in our daughters is Christ love pouring out to the people around them.

This morning I am reading through the book of Acts and come again to a verse I have taught on often and it really hit me again that is pattern for evangelism. Acts 4:13

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Did you catch it? At the end of Doctor Luke’s not so subtle insult of Peter and John. (Come on he called them back water country bumpkins.) They were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus. It didn’t change their status in society. But it sure made a difference in how they acted and what they said.

Here in France, education and position are important. Titles are something that hold weight. This was true in Peter and John’s time also. So the fact that while there were unschooled, ordinary men, they still astonished the wise and learned of their time. In the same way, Christ empowers us to work and minister, in spite of our perceived weaknesses and perhaps even through them.

That is one of the ways we encourage our interns and teams to live their time here, that is one of the things we want for our own lives. We want to spend time with Christ, so others will be able to see Christ in us.

So for us, how do people know if we have been with Jesus?

Are our actions different because of it?

Are we acting boldly to let people know of the power of God at work in our lives?

Or have we been with Jesus?

  • are we sitting at His feet and listening to His words?
  • Are we taking the time to meditate on who He is?

Are people amazed that God is at work in our lives?

Have you been with Jesus?

It doesn’t make sense….Tony

I was reminded again last week that our plans and God’s plans are not always the same and that God’s plans do not always make sense to our finite minds. We had a few things planned and God had a few other things planned. A missed appointment turned into a great time of prayer. A planned downtime alone between meetings turned into great conversations with like minded people. A meeting delayed because of Raeni’s trip to the USA, turns to be a great launching point for the future of God’s work here.

It is sometimes little things like this that we miss out on as we try to make sense of our calling and ministry. I speak not only of our calling here to Paris but in general about all of our callings to follow Christ more fully. We often focus on what we missed out on instead on what was accomplished.

In on the above examples I had about an hour and a half in between meetings last Saturday. I planned to lock the door to the ministry center, walk around the corner and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while reading the paper. (it was my birthday I am allowed to do things like this.) As the meeting ended those who were there were in no hurry to leave. One was waiting for a ride, another finishing up and email and another just wanting to stay. I obliged their wants putting aside my large mocha for a conversation. And looking back. I am glad I did. The conversation was much better than chocolate flavored coffee and news.
I want to make the choice to focus on what I am doing instead of what I think I am missing out on.

It doesn’t make sense….Tony

I was reminded again last week that our plans and God’s plans are not always the same and that God’s plans do not always make sense to our finite minds. We had a few things planned and God had a few other things planned. A missed appointment turned into a great time of prayer. A planned downtime alone between meetings turned into great conversations with like minded people. A meeting delayed because of Raeni’s trip to the USA, turns to be a great launching point for the future of God’s work here.

It is sometimes little things like this that we miss out on as we try to make sense of our calling and ministry. I speak not only of our calling here to Paris but in general about all of our callings to follow Christ more fully. We often focus on what we missed out on instead on what was accomplished.

In on the above examples I had about an hour and a half in between meetings last Saturday. I planned to lock the door to the ministry center, walk around the corner and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while reading the paper. (it was my birthday I am allowed to do things like this.) As the meeting ended those who were there were in no hurry to leave. One was waiting for a ride, another finishing up and email and another just wanting to stay. I obliged their wants putting aside my large mocha for a conversation. And looking back. I am glad I did. The conversation was much better than chocolate flavored coffee and news.
I want to make the choice to focus on what I am doing instead of what I think I am missing out on.

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Not Today…Raeni

Not today…that was my my initial thought Tuesday afternoon as I watched the oncoming train pull in on the track next to us, with its lights flashing. We have company coming tonight and we are already getting home much later than I was anticipating. I immediately start making a mental list of what must get done and checking my train app for alternative routes to get home.
Then as I watch train agents coming running to the platform red caution tape in hand and passengers slowly streaming from cars with confusion on their faces; I realize what happened. The train had just hit a person. The reality, it was probably not an accident, but an individual had just used the train to take their own life. This is the second time I have been riding a train when an event like this occurred at the station I was near.
We were on our way home from a meeting that we were really excited about. We were making an action plan on how and what we are going to do to reach out to this city and create new communities of faith. This excitement changes to desperation. We must share the hope of Jesus.

I can recite the statistics of how the French are as a whole one of the most depressed countries in the world, they take more antidepressants, and suicide rates are extremely high. Those things are true but when the reality of someone jumping in front of your train, it reminds you again of the urgency of the gospel. There is only one cure for this emptiness that they feel, and it does not come from man. The emptiness can only be filled by the hope that a relationship with Jesus will give them.
Will you fervently join us in prayer? First, for the people of France that their hearts and minds will be opened to looking in a new direction to fill the void that they feel. That they would look to Jesus Christ. Second, pray that God would show us people who are open to his message of the gospel.

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Not Today…Raeni

Not today…that was my my initial thought Tuesday afternoon as I watched the oncoming train pull in on the track next to us, with its lights flashing. We have company coming tonight and we are already getting home much later than I was anticipating. I immediately start making a mental list of what must get done and checking my train app for alternative routes to get home.
Then as I watch train agents coming running to the platform red caution tape in hand and passengers slowly streaming from cars with confusion on their faces; I realize what happened. The train had just hit a person. The reality, it was probably not an accident, but an individual had just used the train to take their own life. This is the second time I have been riding a train when an event like this occurred at the station I was near.
We were on our way home from a meeting that we were really excited about. We were making an action plan on how and what we are going to do to reach out to this city and create new communities of faith. This excitement changes to desperation. We must share the hope of Jesus.

I can recite the statistics of how the French are as a whole one of the most depressed countries in the world, they take more antidepressants, and suicide rates are extremely high. Those things are true but when the reality of someone jumping in front of your train, it reminds you again of the urgency of the gospel. There is only one cure for this emptiness that they feel, and it does not come from man. The emptiness can only be filled by the hope that a relationship with Jesus will give them.
Will you fervently join us in prayer? First, for the people of France that their hearts and minds will be opened to looking in a new direction to fill the void that they feel. That they would look to Jesus Christ. Second, pray that God would show us people who are open to his message of the gospel.

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Grandma Ruth

We don’t blog nearly as much as we should.

Today Raeni is processing through what it means to be on the other side of the world while her grandma prepares for heaven. Below is a letter she wrote for her mom to read to Grandma Ruth. As I read through it I had tears streaming down my face.

Would you pray for Raeni, her family, our girls and myself as we say good-bye to this amazing women with the heart of Christ? Thanks for reading.

The picture above is a picture of Ruth and Raeni’s mom.

Tony

 

Grandma Ruth,

I can’t be there to say goodbye but I want you to know how very much I love you. You have been a light and an example to our family as you fervently loved Jesus. We never saw your love for Him waver.

You were such an adventurer. Bring us treats and dolls from all over the world. You never blinked an eye at driving cross country with 1,2, or 3 little girls.

Do you remember the summer we went to arches national park and took the cruise to see Rainbow Bridge? I do. It still remains one of my favorite places on earth.

What about picking grapes to make raisins, going to the cattle farm, family reunions, letting us “play” the organ, playing crazy dice? All of those are special memories for me.

Or when I was really little we played some game for pennies with Sam and his sister? I really liked that one.

Sliding down the hill in front of our house in the winter or all those games of mini golf, all of those things to show us a good time.

Grandma thank you for being a prayer warrior. I know that God answers the prayers of the saints. I also know you lifted up many prayers on my behalf that He has answered. Thank you for loving Jesus so much that you wanted every person you knew to love Him too.

You are my example of fearlessly making known the mystery of the gospel..

Grandma will you pray for me that I will be fearless as you have been.

As you leave this earth to go and sing praises to your King in heaven, know I love you very much and I will see you there.

Love, Rainie (That is how Ruth spells her name.

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Grandma Ruth

We don’t blog nearly as much as we should.

Today Raeni is processing through what it means to be on the other side of the world while her grandma prepares for heaven. Below is a letter she wrote for her mom to read to Grandma Ruth. As I read through it I had tears streaming down my face.

Would you pray for Raeni, her family, our girls and myself as we say good-bye to this amazing women with the heart of Christ? Thanks for reading.

The picture above is a picture of Ruth and Raeni’s mom.

Tony

 

Grandma Ruth,

I can’t be there to say goodbye but I want you to know how very much I love you. You have been a light and an example to our family as you fervently loved Jesus. We never saw your love for Him waver.

You were such an adventurer. Bring us treats and dolls from all over the world. You never blinked an eye at driving cross country with 1,2, or 3 little girls.

Do you remember the summer we went to arches national park and took the cruise to see Rainbow Bridge? I do. It still remains one of my favorite places on earth.

What about picking grapes to make raisins, going to the cattle farm, family reunions, letting us “play” the organ, playing crazy dice? All of those are special memories for me.

Or when I was really little we played some game for pennies with Sam and his sister? I really liked that one.

Sliding down the hill in front of our house in the winter or all those games of mini golf, all of those things to show us a good time.

Grandma thank you for being a prayer warrior. I know that God answers the prayers of the saints. I also know you lifted up many prayers on my behalf that He has answered. Thank you for loving Jesus so much that you wanted every person you knew to love Him too.

You are my example of fearlessly making known the mystery of the gospel..

Grandma will you pray for me that I will be fearless as you have been.

As you leave this earth to go and sing praises to your King in heaven, know I love you very much and I will see you there.

Love, Rainie (That is how Ruth spells her name.

18 months

We should probably blog more than once every six months. But if you want to know more, sign up for the prayer list we send that out every month.
This week we celebrated our 18 month anniversary of living in France. By celebrate I mean we acknowledged 18 months have passed since that morning when I had my first encounter with the dark Paris winter. The morning I woke Tony up and said,” I think all our clocks are messed up its almost 9 am and the sun still isn’t up”. Nope, clocks weren’t wrong. Welcome to Paris in the winter where the sunrise is very late, if it decides to come out at all.
So, initially I had thought about a blog post full of recent successes and then today occurred. Tony had back to back meetings all day, interns were off to help with various events, Fayth had a couple of events and Hannah and I would be home alone most of the day. As an introvert with a house full of people I was really looking forward to this day. The morning was going swimmingly as I picked Fayth up from her slumber party. Fayth even said she could understand what I was saying as I chatted with the other moms. Then the 24 hour clock struck. As an American, I struggle with the 24 hour clock. In fact last summer it was so bad Hannah’s eye doctor started calling us a few minutes prior to our appointments to make sure we had the right time. Hannah had wanted to have a couple of friends over and the plan was they were both supposed to come at 1:00/13h and leave around 3:00/15h. Again, perfect from my introverted being. Well, one friend came at 1:00/13h, and left at 3:00/15h. All the time we were wondering where the 2nd friend was. Just as friend one walked out the back gate the front gate bell was ringing. Friend number 2 arrived at 3pm/15h. Not sure how, but screwed that one up. Plus Hannah’s favorite thing to do with her friends is make American cookies, well we made two batches of American cookies today.
While the friend debacle was occurring, Jenn, our teammate, was graciously taking Fayth to a birthday party on the other side of town. Jenn was calling because she couldn’t find the house. Often in France houses our tucked away on side streets or numbered in a way that our American minds don’t understand. Street signs are difficult to find. Jenn was looking for a phone number, well the invitation only had 8 digits not the required 10 digits to make a call.
Never fear, Jenn was awesome and Fayth was delivered safely to her birthday party.
Just as I received the text that Fayth was there, I realized there was no end time on the invitation. Well, now I don’t really know where Fayth is and I don’t know when to pick her up plus Hannah has a friend at the house who will be staying till 5:30. All of this wouldn’t have been so bad as Fayth is fairly responsible but in this digital age she doesn’t know her phone number by memory.
Insert panicking mom moment. Well as soon as Hannah’s friend left I prepared myself to walk down to the party hoping that it was over but realizing I could just be going to find out what time to pick Fayth up. I knew if this was the case, Fayth would not be happy, (the anger of an embarrassed 11 year old can be somewhat frightening) as right now life is all about conforming and not looking different from everyone else.
Well finding Fayth meant some wandering and a desperate phone call to Jenn. Then a blessing from God, a face I recognized. One of the other moms was walking in a door and I knew she had a daughter in Fayth’s class. Praise God not only was this a familiar face leading me to my destination but it also meant I was on time. Off I dashed practically chasing this mother down in fear I would lose sight of her I some windy Paris side street. Well after the required politeness, we were all safe and sound at home by 6:30. Nothing on my list was accomplished and I was left frustrated and somewhat confused by all the mishaps of the day.
So after all of that what progress have we made in 18 months.
Well first accomplishment, Fayth said my French wasn’t too bad today. Yesterday I was celebrating my French as I talked with Hannah’s occupational therapist about treatment plans and how we could tell if she was making progress. I have made slow progress into some social circles. A few mom’s initiate short conversations and there about 12 people who I can say bonjour to on any given day and they say bonjour back. We know we have created a little buzz in the community as other English speaking families ask about the rumors they hear about us.
We are trying new things, we are trying English camp and a English game night. We successfully gave away 2000 glow sticks (it was amazing how skeptical many people were to take something free). We have a full house for June and July, we will steadily have 2 – 4 additional people with us.
Others will be staying elsewhere as a couple of families a one small group will be coming through Paris to serve. We have helped to find volunteers to help serve the missionaries here. We were so grateful to the Scharnberg family for painting a bathroom that had a water leak and needed some freshening up. Our interns have washed windows, cleaned awnings, and helped with childcare for the team of missionaries, handed out 2000 glowsticks. The interns have gotten involved in some of the small group activity at Trinity and our participating in a conversational English class, and a lunch that provides a free meal to those in need. Tony and I have other opportunities to serve presented to us and we are praying through those opportunities.
So 18 months and I can say this is my home on earth. It is a place that continues to grow on me (although some days more slowly than others). I am excited to see what another 18 months will bring. The lives that will be changed. How I will be changed. How my family will be changed. These are the things that make all the struggles worthwhile.