Friday, November 26, 2010

Start of the Season

Call me a legalist if you like, but I am strict about no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. To me, it adds to the excitement and keeps the music from driving me crazy. I mean, how many times can we listen to O Holy Night and how many versions of What Child is This? can we take? So yeah, I refuse it until after Thanksgiving, which is today.

Yesterday we had a great big Thanksgiving meal with about 50 of our closest local friends from around the world. Today, instead of Black Friday shopping (soooo glad that is now a world away), we spent our day after thanksgiving at language school, as everyday. And then took some dear friends to the airport to send them back home to southern France. Back home a package arrived! Hooray... until we got to the lion that sings The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
Turns out Sawyer likes it, thus we've heard it on a non-stop loop for the next hour. Christmas decorating has begun with music playing, and over the past hour the sun has gone down and the ground has been blanketed in snow out of nowhere. All a wonderfully appropriate start to the Christmas Season. And what a great transition to go from giving thanks to anticipating the coming of a child savior into the world!!

And now my son's walking around with a shopping bag on his head...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ode to Socks

Why socks are one of my son’s favorite things I don’t know. They are perhaps second only to his shoes. If it weren’t for socks though, I don’t think we could get him dressed in the morning. He despises getting dressed. Who can blame him really? Pajamas are soft, and warm, and comfy. But they have feet on them. To put socks on, pajamas must come off. So every morning we say, “Sawyer let’s go get socks!” He then goes and picks out a pair, the start of his day’s outfit.

I’m not sure how it’s happened, but I’ve become a sock snob of sorts. I don’t really like the implications: that I prefer, want, buy, or have something that’s expensive - a luxury item. That’s not how I intended to live, and I hesitate to even write about this because I want to be a good steward of my neighbor’s checkbook (as in, even if I can afford something fancy I should think twice because my friend maybe can’t or shouldn’t afford the same but will be interested because I have it). But here’s how it happened: As with most of my clothes and stuff, I always bought and wore whatever was cheapest. Then one day out with my good friend Paul we stumbled on some Patagonia Ultra-Lightweight socks for 70% off (at the same store where I later bought some Chacos for $15). We bought about 4-5 pairs each. That was almost 4 years ago. I’m wearing one of those pairs right now, and they are still my favorite socks! I’ve played basketball and golf in them, they’ve been on African safaris with me, hiked through gorges, mountains, beaches, and yet still here they are. I’ve worn and washed them at least 100 times each. I’ve since added to my collection Smartwool and Teko socks as well. Love them all. Worth it? Well, yeah.

When we were dating, I once asked JJ what she wanted for Christmas, and she said “socks.” I laughed. Thought it absurd. This was before my sock snobbery when I only bought packs of the cheapest, simplest ones out there. But I obliged and found some fun socks for her. Now it’s an annual event. And always a winning gift!

So as you can see, our family loves socks. Thus I present to you this Thanksgiving my Ode to Socks

Oh how I love socks,
Whether they’ve been around awhile
Or just out of the box,
Great socks always make me smile!

If I had to choose
Between red, orange, or gray,
I’d probably take the duller.
But my son who loves shoes,
When given his say,
Would always wear multicolor!

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Plant a Church (funny)

Now that we're beginning to think about the next step, we need some good advice for what God has given us a passion to do. How about this?

Btw, I like sarcasm.

Monday, November 15, 2010

We’ve arrived... it’s time to go!

Have you ever had a time in your life where right when you started to feel comfortable and at home in a new place, you moved? Maybe you were a military kid, or maybe an MK, or maybe you just moved a lot. Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. In recent years for us, this has been a recurring theme.

Yesterday, I had that moment of “I’m at home here.” We were eating lunch at a very French cafeteria-style restaurant in the mall. We were laughing at Sawyer as he spit out a green bean, dipped a chicken nugget in yogurt, threw a mini-fit, and tried to fall asleep in his high chair. JJ and I were eating the same foods as the French people around us and truly enjoying them. Those chicken nuggets Sawyer was eating? Free, because I had struck up a conversation with a lunch lady and made friends, Sawyer smiled at the right time :).

Right before lunch, we’d been shopping in the mall. We understand now the process of buying things here. France (and Paris) is by far the most expensive place we’ve ever lived, but we’ve figured out how to shop and not dip into emergency life-savings with every purchase. JJ had picked up some maternity clothes, I had tried on a pair of skinny-ish pants and actually thought “I like these” (didn’t buy them though, way too small to work with my big American shoes, will have to work out the shoe problem first).

After lunch, we got in our car to make the 30-minute drive home. I didn’t pull out our GPS, I didn’t look at a map... for about a 20-mile radius around our home, we know our way around! And I finally understand how to read street signs. As I was driving I began to think about the train ride into Paris and recited the names of nearly every stop along the way. I thought about the big city and the monuments, the squares, the fountains, the fact that we finally know our way around.

Friday night I had dinner with some French people. I was able to talk with one man about the Bible... what it says, how to read it, what it all means. We talked about many more things as well. Saturday I sat down behind a drumset to play music with some friends. Saturday night I rode a couple hours in a car with some other friends to and from a basketball match. We talked and laughed and got to know each other far better than we ever had on the court.

We finally feel at home here. And so we are going to move. Sometime around Christmas, we’ll be moving south to a whole new city with a whole new way of life and dialect of French. We’ll re-learn our way around, start new relationships, and completely replant ourselves. We’ll hope and pray that maybe next time we’ll get to know a place and actually stay there awhile.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Remember Reebok Pumps? I would argue one of the most important shoes of my generation's childhood. Those things raised the bar on sport shoe fashion and function. Who doesn't remember Dee Brown's dunk contest double-pump prep? I wonder how much he was paid for doing that. Maybe nothing. But that moment those things became over-the-top popular. I even got myself a pair of knock-offs from LA Gear. They were pretty sweet too.

Today marked the second time in the last month I've seen someone wearing Reebok Pumps. 1st was a black and green pair in Versailles. Today was a purple and orange pair walking through the supermarket. Both were in pristine condition. Does anyone else find this odd? Are they still being made? Or did these two people somehow find great condition vintage pairs that they just wear around?

With John Wall at the helm, Reebok's about to make a big-time basketball comeback, so maybe they're pulling their old sure-thing out for the opening act? Or is this just a Europe thing? Has anyone else seen Reebok Pumps out and about?

While I'm on the topic of hip consumerism, have you seen the new Windows Phone commercials? If you live in the States, I would guess so. I stumbled across one today, and I think it's marketing genius.

The whole idea of "get your head out of the phone and realize there's a life to be lived" seems like a slam dunk. And that's from someone that's not too big on most windows products. But then again, I don't own a smartphone and don't really want one, so maybe my opinion's a bit nul. I do steal my wife's pretty often though and peruse through her electronic life-connection to the world, so I can't exclude myself from those who need saving (not that I actually think another product will make us less stuck in our own little electronic world... I just think that with this marketing the phone might out-kick its coverage).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Acid-Washed Jeans & A Tissue

Sometimes I'm a little slow to catch on.

My almost 2-year-old son loves to help out. He also really prefers for things to be clean. It's not unusual to see him walking through the apartment with a brush and dust pan sweeping crumbs, real or imaginary. We almost never make it through a meal without him demanding a napkin so that he can wipe his hands or tray or both.

Still, I should have noticed when he bee-lined from his room to the kitchen, grabbed the pan and brush, and then intently ran back to said room. I thought nothing of it.

I probably also should have noticed when he jogged into the living room, climbed onto the sofa, and reached immediately for a tissue (the intensity and focus was astounding). I didn't.

Instead, I thought as he stretched for the tissue and then turned and ran off, "those are some fun retro acid-washed jeans." Remember those circa 80s/90s? Blue in their jeandom but splotched with white up and down. We were so cool.

But wait, I've never seen acid-washed jeans for sale in France. And Sawyer doesn't own any. Nor does he dress himself. Curiosity peaked, I walked back to his bedroom. There sat my little boy, pushing and scattering little piles of baby powder with the tissue. He had knocked a bottle of baby powder off the shelf and the lid had come off, spilling the white fluffy powder all over the floor. Sawyer was trying to wipe it up, but his tissue was a little overmatched. I smiled.

I wonder how often God looks down at us sitting in the middle of a mess we've made, totally outmatched and hopeless to clean it up. Is he happy to see us trying as I was with my son? Will he come down and clean up our messes with as little as a pleading look? I think so. I hope so. I think he already has.

Thankfully the baby powder spill was harmless, and actually made his room smell pretty nice.

But what if it had been something else? What if I found my son sitting in the middle of an incredibly abrasive cleaning fluid? What if his hands and legs were scarred? I would pick him up, quickly. Hold him. Take care of him. Cry with him.
Why would we think God's reaction any different?

He loves us. Oh how he loves us.
Whether messes that simply interrupt our day or messes that hurt us and leave scars, God is there. He sees it. He is more than able to take care of it. He knows we'll learn from it. But mostly, he cares about our well-being.

And I like to think he chuckles sometimes when he sees us pushing around a mountain of powder with a tissue.

I started this post thinking about a metaphor to bridge the gap between the cleansing blood of Christ and acid-washed jeans, but I'll leave that one to your imagination.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Night Arc

A nasty rainy day on Sunday left us two boys inside and restless, Mama gone for the week. We put our heads together and came up with the idea to go into Paris and climb to the top of the Arc de Triumph. And so after and afternoon nap, off we went. We arrived a little sunset, and so we were blessed with a beautiful night view of the city of lights. I was blessed with a massive calf workout. Once we made it to te top, we watched cars circling below, we saw the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkling on the hour, and we gathered our bearings on yet another birdseye view of the city (have also seen Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, top of Morntparnasse, and the steps of Sacre Coeur; Montparnasse is the best, but the Arc de Triumph is right there with it). A beautiful view of a beautiful city.
Sawyer was really great on our way up the tower, riding in my arms and laughing as we passed a group of girls in heels trying to climb it. On the way back down, he got a little restless and wanted to walk it (he's recently learned to jump off of things and thus looooves going down steps). I fought with him most of the way, but once I could see the end of the stairs I let him down and assumed (correctly) that he couldn't walk any slower than the British couple in front of us. As we rounded the corner and finished the final steps, the exit door worker's eyes widened with a look of "did that two-year old really just walk down the 481 steps from the top?" Sawyer held his head high and grinned.

Knowing a 40-minute train ride awaited myself and a restless boy, I came up with a great idea to get a McFlurry from the nearby McDonald's. He and I could share it and thus occupy our time on the ride. My plan backfired. It turned out that Sawyer had no interest in eating the McFlurry. Not even a bit. He did, however, take great delight in attempting to feed me spoonfulls of the M&M laced ice-cream. Uh-huh-huh Daddyo, the tables are turned! And so he proceeded to dip the little plastic spoon into the cup and barely coat it in ice-cream, then hold it up to my mouth and giggle with delight. Even the sourest faces on the train around us couldn't help but laugh at our scene.

So the Champs-Élysées is the major road in front of the Arc de Triumph. It's kind of a big deal. Among other things, it's littered with a bunch of crazy high-priced fancy jewelry stores. Brands like Cartier, Swarovski, and Swatch hawk their wares on the Champs, but seeing a billboard in the metro, I have a new favorite brand:
That's right... Free Willy artistic jewelry and decorative items. Who wouldn't want a house full of Free Willy?
Free Willy!

Loire - Villandry

On our way home from the Loire Valley, we stopped at one last Château: Villandry. Villandry is most well-known for its gardens, and thus we never made it inside the dwelling, but rather spent our morning roaming the pathways and trails of the gardens outside.

The gardens were quite impressive. And we came in the middle of autumn. Imagine them splashed with color and flowers as they would be in spring and summer!

Beautiful and useful, these gardens were filled with vegetables like cabbage, peppers, celery, artichokes, and pumpkins. Mmm, tasty garden!

Hey, grapes! Perhaps intended for wine, but pretty tasty themselves.

One of our favorite parts was the labyrinth, a maze of pathways between hedges ending in the middle with a wooden tower and a view as the reward! We picked our paths and raced to the middle. Mama won, with Sawyer a close 2nd.

Au revoir jardins de Villandry!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where is your church?

When someone asks, "Where is your church?" we point them to a building or give them an address, and everything centers around what happens at that location.

When we gather at the building, we learn to be good. Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world. We are holy because of what we don't participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don't do). We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens. We are decent church members with little more impact on the world that we had before we were saved.

-David Platt, Radical

Sound familiar?

What if when we listened to a sermon, instead of wondering what we can get out of it, we listened to it so that we could go and teach it to someone(s) else? Someone who is waiting, hungry, expecting. What would that kind of a church look like?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Loire - Ussé and Chinon

After leaving caveman land, we made a childhood dream of JJ's come true and drove to Sleeping Beauty's Castle. The real one. More or less. Château d'Ussé is the real building on which the castle in the story of Sleeping Beauty was based (as written by Charles Perrault). Seeing it from the road was indeed impressive and stunning. Because of both vocal and written reports that the interior was in bad shape and not very accommodating to guests, we didn't go in. Sawyer did find a fun tree to play under by the road though.

Next we continued on to Chinon. Chinon is a fun little town in the Loire which is overlooked by an old castle. We arrived during market day and had a good (though cold) taste of French open-air markets outside the city. Here JJ and my mom are shopping for scarves.
After our shopping ended and we rested a bit, we went for a visit of the Château de Chinon, an old castle with a rich history. It was a lot of fun to walk through, with towers, dungeons, and state rooms abounding. But this château/castle had some added fun in that it was recently renovated and reopened. Instead of simple plaques detailing history or funny-looking scaled models of people, battles, pieces of equipment... throughout the chateau were videos transmitted onto walls, fireplaces, and ceilings which showed some of the history. Things like visits of kings, requests for aide from Joan of Arc, and midnight battles came to life inside. For a slightly less-than-overly-interested history buff (read: don't care much about history) like myself, this was a fantastic idea! I recommend it, if you're ever in Chinon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Loire - Troglodytes!

We took a trip into the Loire Valley, a beautiful rural area of France known for its wine, mushrooms, pears, chateaus, beautiful land, and quaint towns. Naturally, stop one was a dip into the caveman life!

One particular area of the Loire is full of troglodyte caves.
Basically, caves where people lived. But these are no man vs wild caves, these are French caves! And in proper French style, they are quite nice, fancy, even homey. We slept one night in a cave hollowed into the limestone, though it was perhaps a notch above the originals. Complete with waterfall shower, 2 beds, a kitchenette, and rockin mood lights (3 lamps that changed color every 10 seconds or so), our room allowed caving it in style. Sawyer loved the wicker chair outside.

Also in the area was a troglodyte farm village, set up more or less as it would have been in its heyday. It was a pretty interesting place, which showed how the French commoners of the area used caves as homes, told the history of stew, and had animals for petting all around. Sawyer loved the goats, laughed at the feel of the donkey's ear on his face, stared down the ducks, and watched a horse with a hint of apprehension. By far his favorite activity of the day was feeding the chicken.

Up next, Chateau d'Ussé and Chinon.

3 Generations of Boys at the Park

This one was really funny. He wanted to go under this passage, but did not want to touch the ground with his hands. It was like watching the final round of toddler limbo. He kept walking up and ducking, then backing off and looking, then coming at it again. Much to our surprise, he did finally make it through without touching the ground.