Who Are We

Wayne, Hilary & Adelaide Denny. Preparing to Serve in Leadership Training in Senegal, Africa. God has called us to take advantage of a unique window of religious freedom in Muslim Senegal by equipping church leaders who have a heart for reaching their country and the Muslim world.

We should be jealous. . . for the honour of His name – troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed. And all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it.” John Stott

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 'Traditions'

Although we miss our families A LOT this Christmas, it has been fun to have a Christmas in our own small apartment and start some new 'traditions' with our own little family (I guess we'll see if they stick!). This is actually the first Christmas since we've been married that we haven't been traveling or moving, so we enjoyed having our own little tree, decorating our apartment, and having friends over for Christmas Eve. A few of the traditions we started...

- Advent candles...on Christmas Eve. We really meant to start on the first Advent Sunday, but it just didn't work out, and by the time Christmas Eve came, we hadn't lit any of our candles! So we did it all on Christmas Eve, lit each candle, read a passage and sang (or listened to on iTunes) a carol. It was a nice way of focusing on the birth of Christ, and we got use out of our Advent candles I bought over a month before! I think we may keep this tradition up.

- When I was growing up, we always watched It's a Wondrful Life on Christmas. We always talked about not liking it, but I think we all liked it a bit :) Wayne has never seen it though and had is own favorite Christmas movies. So instead of the classic Christmas movie, we (Wayne and I) watched Home Alone 1 and 2, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (more cult-classics than classics). Addie watched the VeggieTales Saint Nicholas (over and over and over and over again in the last month).

And then there were things that we did that will not become traditions.
- For Christmas Eve dinner, we had ham and a potato dish with a yummy yet stinky French cheese in it. Not going to be able to find the ham or the cheese in Senegal.

- And last night, we did this. I think this might have been a once in a lifetime Christmas experience!

Notre Dame

The Eiffel Tower

Champs Elysees

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Perfect Timing

I love to plan things out. Wayne will tell you, it drives him nuts sometimes. If we're talking about doing something in the future, near or far, I want to figure it out now. I want to know when we are leaving and how it is all working out. But as we are coming up on one year in France (on January 2nd!) I have been thinking about the last few years and how everything has worked out so well for us, and not because of my planning, but because of God's timing (if it were up to me, we would have been finished with our time in France already). But God knew the perfect time to bring us to France.
When we first started out, we were hoping to arrive in France in September of 2008. We worked hard at raising our support to be able to leave then, but not only were were not ready, we had very limited choice in housing for that time (it would have been way too big and expensive for us). So we planned for January 2009, and I am so glad that we arrived when we did. Looking back over our time and looking ahead to our last few months, I see that we arrived not a day too early or too late. A few of the reasons that I see for this are...
- we got the perfect apartment for us, just the right size (and price!)
- we moved into our apartment the same weekend that one of my now best friends moved into their apartment just down the hall. Both being new students with young kids, we spent a lot of time together at the beginning of the year and had a good 10 months together before they had to move on :(
- both Wayne and I were put into really good classes with excellent teachers. Our classes have had very little disruptions as far as changing teachers or rearranging students, and both have moved along at very good paces for us.
- Addie's situation has been pretty much ideal. For the first 6 months of her time here in France, she was in a nursery at our school with 2 French ladies and between 3 and 6 other kids. Isabelle and Nadine speak a little English, so they were able to communicate well with her at the beginning of our time, but they used as much French as they could with her. The other kids either spoke English or were too young to talk, so she didn't have the opportunity to speak much French (ie. she wasn't forced to!). We were a little worried that she wasn't learning it because she didn't use it, but I think now that those 6 months of hearing French every day were perfect for her. Now she needs to use it to communicate with her teachers and friends, and she does! It's all there! She now has almost a full year to be with French kids and teachers, but didn't have to go through the complete shock of entering a French school the week after we arrived.
- we will be able to finish our time here in France and do a quick trip back to the States for some very important events in my family! We will finish our last week here just one week before my sister Jenna's baby is due and a couple of weeks before my sister Kara graduates with her PhD! The timing for a trip back to see our families and to prepare to move to Senegal couldn't be better.

Looking back on this, I am incredibly thankful that God has perfect timing, as He has proved and continues to prove over and over in our lives.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Status Report - Hilary

In general, Hilary's been doing awesome with french. She had studied some before we came to France and thus didn't start in one of the beginner classes. I can't tell you how much it's helped me to have a wife smarter than me. She has been the recepient of numerous questions from me this year.

She's also beginning to have opportunities to minister to others. A couple months back, she had an opportunity to share some thoughts in chapel at our school. If you want to hear how she sounds speaking french, here's the link.

(If you prefer, you can download the message by clicking on the DivShare icon. That shold open up a new window where you can download it.)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mon message - My sermon

Pour nos amis à Antony, J'ai beaucoup apprecié l'opportunité de precher. Si vous n'étiez pas là et voulez l'écouter, voici un lien.

Here's a sermon I recently preached at our church here in Paris. It was the first time I attempted preaching on a subject that was more abstract "The glory of God." In addition, the first time I preached, I read my manuscript for most of the sermon. This time I attempted to preach more like I would in english by only looking at my notes to remind myself of the main points and illustrations. It wasn't near as fluid or concise as it would have been in English, but I do feel that I was able to communicate my main points and it wasn't incredibly painful to listen to either. Hilary said she understood every word (she's fluent in hick french).

(Si vous préférez, vous pouvez telecharger le message en cliquant l'icon "DivShare.")
(If you prefer, you can download the sermon by clicking on the icon "DivShare)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Les Princesses

Tonight we got our Christmas present from Grandma and Papa Van Dine, tickets to Disney on Ice, A Princess' Dream! Addie loved seeing all of the princesses and mom and dad loved seeing Addie enjoy the evening so much.

Wayne did tell me that it was the best figure skating show that he'd ever been to (guess how many that is!), although he did watch a little figure skating on TV for the olympics one year, (the Harding-Kerrigan event) and expected a little more competition between the princesses :)

It was also a good language learning experience for us! I understood almost all of it, et après avoir entendu la phrase "Je souhaite que tu me fasse un prince!" par Aladdin, je ne oublierai jamais qu'il faut utiliser le subjontif avec souhaiter!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Americans in Paris

Things we miss from America...

-our families
-knowing all the rules of the road for certain
-being able to turn right on red
-real Dr. Pepper
-fast food (other than McDonalds!)
-singing hymns in English
-our church
-Snuffers (if you're not from Dallas, you won't understand, if you are, just think "cheddar fries")
-streets that actually have enough room for 2 cars to pass each other

Thing we love about France...

-date nights in Paris
-being able to speak French!
-our church
-being just a few hours drive away from a few different countries
-hearing Addie speak French!
-knowing that we are one step closer to Senegal
-making new friends
-being students (yes, we are nerds)
-hearing my husband say "This salad tastes good!"
-seeing really old buildings

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

When I was young, I used to go to Home and Garden expos with my dad, and they were pretty cool. We would look at all the booths as dad was looking for stuff to redo the house, and we'd get free samples sometimes or see some neat demonstrations. I always had fun going to those.
When I was in college (c'est université aux Etats-Unis) I went to a food expo once with the Director of Food Services at the school. I enjoyed that a lot too because we got to sample all of the food that companies wanted to sell to restaurants and cafeterias.
Well this past week, I went to an expo that was even better than those, I went to Le Salon du Chocolat (Chocolate Expo) in Paris. Imagine, a huge exposition hall filled with booths from bakeries and chocolate stores from all over France, Belgium and Switzerland. It was incroyable! And there were free samples!!! Now I love America, and a good old american hamburger will always be my favorite meal, but chocolate is one thing that Europe definitely does better! They even have a word in French for someone who makes chocolate. Like a pastry cook is a "pâtissier", a person who makes chocolate is a "chocolatière."
Now this could have been a good language learning experience for me, but all I really heard or said was "Voulez-vous y goûter?" (would you like to taste some?) and "Oui Madame" (yes ma'am!).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A woman of whom this world was not worthy

My grandma died this past weekend at the age of 93. As she advanced in age, she lost many physical abilities and her memory worsened. However, while physical and mental abilities diminished with age, her character remained untouched. Her humility, desire to serve others, and contentment with what God had given her seemed to have become effortless.

I would often ask grandma how things were going and I never remember her complaining. And it wasn't like she was discontent with her situation and had learned to put a good face on a bad situation. She genuinely felt she had nothing to complain about. She constantly marveled at how God was continuously kind with her. She had served the Lord faithfully for decades. Yet she never viewed God's kindness as payment for her service. Her humility lead her to view every gift from the Lord as an undeserved surprise. Her relationship with the Lord never involved a paycheck, only a continuous stream of Christmas mornings all year long.

I mourn the loss of my grandma because I've lost someone special. But she is not just a loss to me. She was an example to the world of how God's grace can transform an individual such that certain virtues become not just goals, but essential expressions of their soul. Hebrews 11:38 gives a list of individuals in the past and labels them as individuals of whom this world was not worthy. My grandma is proof to me this list isn't closed.

I thank God for the incredible spiritual heritage he has given me.

Ruth Stewart (1916-2009)


Our little girl turned 3 last weekend, and we are starting to realize that she is not so much our little girl now! We were noticing yesterday how much older she is looking now, and then today we noticed another transformation in her, she is becoming our little bilingual girl! Usually at school, her teachers try to use English with her to make her feel more comfortable as she has been having a hard time adjusting. Today when I picked her up from school though, the second her teacher saw me she got this big surprised smile on her face and said "She was speaking in French to me today! I was speaking in English to her, and then all of the sudden, she started speaking French!" Her teacher was very impressed, and we are very proud of her.

My two favorite people in the whole world!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The beginning of the rest of her life

Summer is over, and tomorrow morning Addie will begin the adventure that will last for the next 15 years (not quite the rest of her life :).  She is starting school!!!  Tomorrow morning we take her for her first day of "école maternelle", French preschool.  She will be in this school 4 days a week for the rest of the year as Wayne and I continue our studies in French.  We (or I) am a little nervous but very excited for what this will do for her language skills.  We feel that the opportunity for her to be with French kids is invaluable right now.  She can understand a fair bit of French from her time in the nursery last year, but she really needs to be pushed to use the French she knows, and playing with  kids her age will do just the trick (especially little girls who like to have tea parties and play pretend)!

Please be praying for her (and for me, and Wayne for that matter as he has to take care of both of us!) tomorrow.  Pray that her teacher would have understanding of Addie's situation, pray that she would not be nervous and pray that she would begin to make friends quickly.

P.S. We start school on Friday and we are so excited!!!  I already have my bag packed.  Yes, that does up us on the nerd scale.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ooohhh, Champs Elysées...

Here is a little slideshow of our summer which included visits from both sets of grandparents, a little time away as a family, some very intense French practice with friends in Switzerland, and a whole lot of fun!  Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wayne preached...in French!!!

When Wayne's mom told this to a man who knew Wayne as a child, his response was "I never thought I'd see the day when Wayne would preach, much less in French!"  I am so very proud of my husband for making the big step into preaching in his second language here.  He's my favorite preacher to listen to, I'm glad the people over here get to listen to him now too!  We are very thankful that our church here in France has given Wayne this opportunity and that he is able to minister to them in our time here.  
If you want to hear what Wayne sounds like in French (even if you don't understand) you can listen here.
Si vous voulez écouter sa predication, vous le pouvez ici.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Whose money is it anyways?

Life in Paris is different than life in Dallas, or probably most cities that I have ever lived in.  The last year that I lived in Dallas, I was not faced much with very poor people, those who would come up to you on the street and beg for money.  It just wasn't done where I went.  But here in Paris, it happens all the time.  On the metro, on the way to the grocery store, and definitely in the city where they know that there are lots of tourists.  And whenever I am asked for money, I always have to ask myself  "Do I give it to them?" and sometimes it's even "Do I give it to them again?  I just gave them some?"  Sadly, I think I too often err on the side of caution and don't give money  I often think "Well, what if they really don't need it but could just go get a job" or "Why are they still asking?  I just gave them something!  I think they are taking advantage of me."  

In reading Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, I have been convicted of my attitude, specifically the attitude of not wanting to be taken advantage of.  I think that too often, I try to protect myself instead of doing what God asks me to do and letting Him take care of the results.  In Matthew 5 verses 38-42, Jesus speaks about retaliation, or I should say he speaks against retaliation.  It is here that we find the famous concept of "turn the other cheek." It is a difficult idea to put into practice for sure, but I think that most Christians know that they should do this and really do try.  But a few verses later, another concept is linked with the lack of retaliation, that is the idea of giving to beggars.  Directly following the command to turn the other cheek and give your cloak as well when someone just asks for your tunic is the command from Jesus "Give to the one who begs from you."  That's it, no caveats.  But if this isn't enough to convince you, keep reading the next section.  In this section is the famous concept of "love your enemies," but it was something else in this section that hit me.  God tells us to give and not worry about being taken advantage of because he does exactly the same thing.  "For God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (verse 45)  God doesn't look at where he makes it rain and decide field by field who he will give rain to and who he will not.  The rain falls on the field of the just as well as the unjust.  And when a person does something bad with a good gift that God has given them, it is as if they slap God on the cheek, and yet he still turns the other to them, still gives them good gifts. 

Now I know that there are exceptions to every rule, that in Senegal it would be impossible to give money to everyone who asks because they swarm your car every time you stop at an intersection.  But I do not want my life to focus on the exceptions.  I want to have the attitude of Christ.  I want to give without expecting anything in return, even gratitude.  I want to give in faith, trusting that God will do what he wills with my gifts.  I want to give knowing that I have done what my Father has asked of me, not worrying about the other persons actions.  I want to give not worrying what others around me think, only what my Father in heaven thinks of me.  I want to give, knowing that it is all God's money, and he will do with it as he pleases.

Monday, June 22, 2009

News Flash!!

Addie parle le francais!!!  (Addie speaks French!)

Some things she has said to us...

Ça suffit  (that's enough)
Ne touche pas  (don't touch - I think she must get told these two phrases in the nursery :)
Un bisou (a kiss :)
Qu'est-ce que tu fais?  (what are you doing?)
Je ne sais pas (I don't know)
Allez, viens (come on, lets go)
A tout à l'heure (see you later!)
And every once in a while "Oui" will pop out of her mouth instead of "yes", even when we ask her a question in English.

And to see that she really does understand what she's saying, I said to her yesterday when she was trying to do something I told her not too  "J'ai dit non"  (I said no!) to which she replied with a big smile "J'ai dit oui!"  (I said yes!).  Now we need to keep working on the obeying part.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Fortunately, Mother's day is a few weeks later in France and so I had a little extra time to prepare another video for the greatest mom in the whole world!

We love you!!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High heel shoes, baseball gloves and books...an update on us!

So here's an update on what is going on in all of our lives ...

Addie (first because she's the most interesting right now!)
 - she is now potty trained! (I'm sure some of you really don't care, so sorry, but it's exciting not to have to pay for diapers anymore!)
 - we enrolled her for school next fall. Yes, our daughter will be starting French preschool in September (aahhhhh!!!!).  I'll blog more about this later
- she can do a 12 piece puzzle all on her own.  Not only that, it's a puzzle that's made up of blocks, so it's really 6 puzzles in one.  We think she's a genius (although we're trying to teach her that she can't call herself a genius :)
-she loves wearing high healed shoes, even outside. I think that's the only pair of shoes she wore yesterday.
- she's speaking a little French.  The other day, she said "Ça souffit!" which means "That's enough!"  When I asked her where she learned that, she told me that Nadine (her teacher) says it.  Hmmmm..
- she's almost gotten rid of her black eye.  Not quite sure what happened, but she and her buddy Elias were playing and as she tells me "We crashed together and I cried."
- she is looking forward to Grandpa and Grandma Van Dine coming next week!  She can't wait to get her new pink baseball glove!

-is still greatly improving in French (at least I think he is!)
-he's started to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in French.
- he actually likes to watch movies in French now, it's kind of relaxing for him (as long as he's seen it before)
-he's wrapped around Addie's little finger.  All she has to say is "Please Daddy!" and he'll do just about anything!
-he does just about anything for his wife too, which gives him the Best Daddy and Best Husband awards!
-he is looking forward to Grandma and Grandpa Van Dine coming too.  He can't wait to get his new books that he ordered from Amazon!

- is making progress too.  
-  I'm reading Pride and Prejudice in French.  I got it from the library, but even when I read it everyday, it's still so slow going that I'm only about a third of the way through.  I had it for a month but had to actually go buy a copy because I think it's going to take me all summer to read.
-I'm actually learning to cook.  We haven't had pizza for dinner in about a month!
-I'm trying to get into running, but getting up at 6:30 am has been really hard!
-I'm really looking forward to mom and dad coming!!

Addie thought it would be fun to take a pretend nap with Wayne and read in bed!  I think they're both pretty adorable!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

And another reason life in Paris is awesome

While we haven't done a ton of touristy stuff in Paris as Wayne mentioned, we have been able to do some, and this week we had the great opportunity to visit Versailles while getting to know some new friends from church.  Thursday was a holiday here (Ascension Day) and so we had lunch with a family from church and then they took us to walk around the Versailles gardens for the afternoon.  Now for those who live here in France, visiting Versailles may not be much, but for those coming from Dallas where the oldest building there is a little one room cabin that some settler supposedly lived in early on, this stuff here is really, really, cool!

Enjoy some pictures of our fun afternoon!

Merci Matthieu et Marie-Hélène!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Life in Paris has been awesome (but not for the reason you're thinking)

We've received many a joke about "suffering for Jesus" in Paris. Undoubtedly, the reason for the joke is that most people think (and rightfully so) that Paris is an amazing city. There's the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, Notre Dame, the Louvre etc. There is no end of amazing things to see in Paris.

However, in our first 5 months here, we've been able to do very little tourist stuff (any guesses on how well museums work with a 2 yr old). But we have greatly enjoyed living in Paris. A major reason for this is our church here in Paris.

The new friends we've made here have always been patient with us when we're stumbling through saying something in French. We've been invited to meals several times usually where someone needs to do quite a bit of driving to get us back home. We've been loaned a car from someone at church during our last 2 school breaks.

Our church experience has helped us greatly in 2 ways. First, having so many patient and kind people to speak with has immensely helped our French improve. Second, the difficulty that comes with adjusting to a new location has been drastically lowered. Moving to a new country where you don't know the language is often an extremely difficult transition. While the transition has still been difficult (there's a lot we still miss from home), it's hasn't been near as difficult as it could have been.

Here's a few photos from the church weekend retreat this past weekend.

Here's Hilary teaching Addie her newly aquired Petanque skills

Et nous voulons dire merci à tous nos amis à l'église d'Antony.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

International Meal

For dinner tonight...

Main course - Poulet Yassa (a chicken dish from Senegal that I made for the first time)

Next course - Traditional French baguette with some good Camembert cheese.

Dessert (for Wayne)- Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie with peanut butter smeared on top.  Pour nos amis français qui lisent le blog, c'est un biscuit americain que Wayne aime beaucoup!  Et il peut manger le beurre de cacahuètes avec tous!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

4 years ago...

4 years ago today...

And us now, even happier!

Guess where we're going to celebrate...the Champs Elysées in Paris!  How cool is that.

And Addie's comments about the wedding while looking at our wedding pictures..."You and daddy got married.  I was not there.  I stayed home."  I guess we'll explain all that later!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wayne went to Switzerland...I defrosted the fridge.

One of the reasons that we chose to go to Senegal was because it is a French speaking country and the primary language that we would need to learn for our ministry is French.  This appealed to us for 2 reasons.  First of all, by knowing French, much more of North Africa is open to us if we ever leave Senegal.  The other reason is that I studied French before and so we knew that we both wouldn't be starting from scratch.  We are both here to study the language and really both working full time jobs between going to classes, studying, and extra activities to practice our French.  But with a 2 year old, it's not always possible for both of us to always do the same activities, which brings us to this past week and the title of our blog.

This week, a couple of students from our school here went to a conference in Switzerland on Islam and they had some more space in their car for a couple more people to go.  Wayne had the great opportunity to go with and attend this conference for 3 days.  And the best part of all of this, the whole conference was in French and pretty much everyone who attended only spoke French!  It was a great chance for him to really push ahead in both his oral comprehension skills and his speaking skills.  We were really glad that he could take part in this.

While we both would have liked to attend, we realize that at this point in our lives, our language learning is taking place in a somewhat less than ideal situation.  It would be great if we could spend many more hours on our French each week and both be able to jaunt off to Switzerland for a few days for some intense practice.  But then again, we would miss seeing the joy on Addie's face when she saw Cinderella's castle (at least that's who she thinks lived there) or hearing her play by play of Aladdin because we're not in the same room to watch it with her ("Mommy, there's Jasmine's palace!...Daddy, they're kissing....Forward fast this part please!!!"), or hearing her say "A tout a l'heure (see you later) to our friends here at school.  We wouldn't trade that for the world.  Addie and I had a great time together for a few days while Wayne was gone and even got to go on a date to McDonald's together.  

So God has provided us with a great school to study at, opportunities to learn and practice together (ie. church) and opportunities for Wayne to have even more intense practice.  And God has given us a wonderful little girl who continues to bring smiles to our faces even in the tiring stressful times of language learning.  And as a bonus for this week, God gave me a day at home with Addie so I could get our fridge cleaned out and defrosted, and it looks great!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love according to Addie

When she's trying to stall going to sleep - "Mommy wait, I have to tell you something...I love you!  I need to tell daddy too, go get him!"

Getting ready to watch Enchanted together - "Mommy, I'm ready for True Love's Kiss, are you?"  (she actually doesn't know it's called Enchanted - maybe we should teach her though because I'm not sure I like the sound of this sentence, she's only 2!)

While watching - "Mommy, they're going on a date.  That's like when you go to McDonalds."

And while we were at McDonalds for dinner - "Mommy, I love you.  You're my true love's kiss."

And when I ask her who my true love's kiss really is - "Daddy!"

Oh I love this girl!

Monday, April 20, 2009

It'll come to you

"Andy explains long division"

I've often heard "you don't understand your first language until you learn a second." This has been true for me as a remember someone explaining Biblical Greek to me and comparing certain greek tenses to the gerund in English or the participle. My immediate response when someone referred to English grammar as an example was typically something like this, "What's a gerund?"

The fact is that you often don't know how to explain grammatical concepts in your first language because you've used them so long, they're just natural. You can't explain it. You just do it and you can do it because you've been using that language for decades now. When you start a second language that doesn't mirror your first language, you can on longer just do it. And you don't have the luxery that kids have of time. When you hear a 5 year old saying "He gaved me the ball," you say, he's only 5. He'll eventually learn it. But he's been studying English for 5 years!

Undoubtedly, French will be something that we will need to continue working on years beyond language school, but we need to cram a whole lot of learning in during these 18 months. Thus, a few prayer requests for us related to this is:

1) the ability the comprehend the different grammatical concepts in a timely manner
2) the patience to not become frustrated when things don't come in a timely manner

3) and probably the most important, pray that God will develop patience within us as we learn French, and that the patience He gives us will spill over into other areas of our lives.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our normal work week and a huge prayer request

Many people ask, how many days are you in class? The answer is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. We're in class for about 5 1/2 hours and spend a few hours each night on homework. You're probably thinking, how do I get a 4 day work week?

Well, while we work 4 days on school work, in reality, the only way to not be working on French is to not leave the apartment and only watch American movies. It's impossible to leave our apartment and not be involved somehow in learning French whether it's by talking to people or reading roadsigns. In fact, probably our most intense day of language studies is at church on Sunday, and if we get invited to have lunch with someone, it's even more exhausting. That's not because we don't enjoy the people. We have an awesome church and everybody has been incredibly kind and patient with us.

In fact, now, there are a lot of things that we once did to relax, but now are anything but.

1) Going to someone's house for a meal
2) Watching TV or a movie (in french of course)
3) Listening to the radio (in french)
4) Making a phone call (you have no idea how awkward this still feels)
5) Playing basketball (being in the shape I'm in already makes this physically tiring, but now it's mentally exhausting also)

These are all things that now are certainly enjoyable and fun, but downright exhausting! This brings me to foreigners in Dallas and our prayer request. I remember seeing foreigners (not all or course) in Dallas who couldn't speak English and seemed to not be trying and I always wondered why not? I now know. The toughest thing to do is force yourself to get out of your apartment and do something that involves talking to other people!

So, our big prayer request: energy! This may be hard to believe, but I even find it difficult to find the motivation to play basketball here. After class, I'm already tired and don't feel like I have the energy to go. Often, the Thursday night Bible study at church comes (which starts at 9PM!!) and I think, I'm too tired.

Please pray that along with the grace to understand what we're being taught in class, we have the energy to practice it!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Picture post

Just a few pictures to show you a little more of our life here.

Addie is getting to be so big!  She built this tower all by herself and we are so proud of her!

We had an Easter party this weekend with the other families from school.  Addie loved doing the egg and spoon race (although there was no one there to race against).  I was quite impressed that she could actually do it.

We've gotten a couple of packages with some goodies from the US lately.  This one included Betty Crocker brownie mix.  They were delicious (and we still have 3 left!)

Addie still has her best bud here, although sometimes it is a love/hate relationship between the two.  Here we caught them in a love moment.

We have to go to the grocery store almost daily here (due to the fact that we have no car and can't get much each time).  Addie is a big help though (when we let her go :)  She brings her suitcase along and loads it up with groceries for us.  We usually end up carrying it and her home (which is why she only gets to go sometimes!)

So there is a little of our life.  We have started our end of the term two week vacation and are looking forward to some time as a family (and some time with a car thanks to our friends at church!)  School is going very well, but I think that all of our brains are ready for a break!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Things that no longer make me panic...

The cheese aisle at the grocery store.  I actually bought my first French cheese this week and it's really good!

Praying in French.  At least in class, if I ever have to actually pray in front of French people, that might be a different story.  

The Bises.  That's the way French people greet each other at church.  Obviously you can see why I said Bises and not French kiss.  

Having people stop me on the street to ask a question.  I've even been able to answer them a couple of times (hope the directions worked!)

Choosing French as the language of choice at the ATM machine.  It's harder than you think!

Just wanted to let everyone know that we are making progress!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I get it!!!! (only 8 years late)

I remember in seminary my Greek professor say, "It's not a level playing field. Some of you guys who have families are not going to be able to spend the same amount of time on your work and you simply may not be able to get the grades you would like."

I remember hearing that and just thinking, why can't these guys keep up? What's the big problem?

Now I'm in the situation of realizing that I have more than just one goal. Being a good husband and father are 2 of many other goals that rest alongside the goal of learning French. And ultimately, all of these goals are subsumed under one principle goal: becoming like Christ.

A few months back I was reading the book "Sacred Chaos." The author commented how at one stage of her life, her kids with grand kids moved back in with her. All of a sudden, the tranquil time in the morning where she could simply read her Bible and pray in silence was gone! After an episode of mourning the loss of tranquility, she asked herself, which scenario is more likely to make me like Christ?

This not at all to say that we shouldn't look for times of tranquility. However, a little chaos is good if your goal is becoming like Christ. Thus, I probably won't be as good a French student as a I was a Greek student, but I hopefully will become more like Christ.

And it's very possible that I'll also have a little fun too with my added chaos.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You know you're in France when...

You go out to dinner at 6:00pm and you're the only ones in the restaurant until after 7:00.

You have a sandwich for lunch and people wonder if you're going to be ok.

There is a case of wine in the fellowship hall of the church...ready for the potluck Sunday.

 Free refills...what are those?

Every meal that you have at someone's house has at least 4 courses and takes a minimum of 2 hours to eat.

Your daughter thinks that underwear comes from the grocery store (which it does).

The biggest vehicle on the road is a minivan.

The treat in the McDonalds Happy Meal is a "Back to the Future" DVD...wait a minute...

You have to constantly watch the sidewalk because although it is the law, people do not clean up after their dogs.

You have to ask for ice in your glass (and I'm not even sure you could get it at some places when you ask).

You keep eating chocolate because it is just that good and there are so many varieties you haven't tried yet!

Whenever you have a half a glass of coke, people ask why you're drinking so much!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My brain

I think that I have discovered that there are 2 parts to my brain, the part that figures out what is being said, and then the part that remembers what was said.  I have also found recently that if the first part has to work too hard, the second part has trouble working at all!  For instance, sometimes I have to work so hard at understanding people when they introduce themselves to me that the next week when I see them at church, I have no idea what their name is! 

I saw this clearly last night when we went to a special seminar by a Bible school teacher here in Paris.  I was following along quite well for most of the time.  He spoke very clearly and slowly, and I could understand him well.  Because I could fairly easily understand him (although it still took some work!) I was able to remember some of the points that he made and relate them to earlier points (just the normal way you would listen to a message).  At one point he began to use a word that I didn't know though, and I started scrambling in my mind trying desperately to figure out what in the world he was talking about!  And because of that one word (which was quite important to the point) I have no idea what he said for the next 5 minutes.  And even if I heard it and understood a lot of the words, it took way too much work to remember.  

I guess everybody misses bits and pieces of life here and there.  I just hope I don't miss anything too important!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Myths about France (# 1 being I ain't seen the first dang beret)

#2 - Europeans don't wear blue jeans - jeans with the typical american billboard t-shirt, no; but jeans, yes.

#3 - The food is great (never mind, that one is true. The food is great!)

#4 - French people are rude - 
We've heard this statement from numerous people but up till now we have not experienced one bit of it. We've had times of pulling our metro map out and looking lost and had someone volunteer to help us before we even ask. We've met people on the street who have cheerfully said, "Welcome to France." And most importantly, I'm pretty sure that every single time I've begun a conversation with, "I'm sorry, I just speak a little French," the response is always a big smile followed by a "No problem." People have been very patient in having to repeat themselves to us (although not everyone gets the fact that I need them to speak really slow) and very willing to help us.

Picture of the week - sobering reality

This week we went on a quick trip to Normandy and were able to spend a day seeing WWII sites.  One of the places that we visited was the American Cemetery near Omaha beach where the soldiers who died during the invasion are buried.  It was an incredibly sobering experience to see so many graves together for so many men who died in an extremely small span of time.  This picture is just a small part of the entire cemetery.  

As I walked through this place, it made me long for a day when there would be no more war, and no more death.  Malachi 1:11, (at the top of our blog) says that "My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun."  We long for that day when all peoples, tongues, tribes and nations will know that God is the one true God and will worship Him.  It is why we are doing what we do now.  We want to be a part of issuing God's great name to the ends of the earth.  We know that He does not need us to accomplish his goal, but that He choses to use us for His glory. We are grateful that He has given us this opportunity, and that we know without a doubt that it will be accomplished.  And we are grateful that one day we will not have to live with the sobering reality of war, and death, and sin, but that one day all people will know and worship the one true God and that His reign will be one of perfect peace.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I bought 3 months worth of toilet paper today!

This may not really be exciting for many people, but we were very excited to be able to go to the grocery store and shop with a cart, not just a basket!!  This week, some of our new friends from church are on vacation and they asked if we would like to borrow their other car for the week.  We are thrilled to have a little more freedom for the week as we have been taking the bus and walking everywhere that we need to go.  Here is how our week has looked like with the car

Saturday - leave it parked on the street because we're too tired to actually go do anything on our first day of vacation (I was actually tempted to have Wayne just drive me around some just because we had it, but I thought that might be a little silly)

Sunday - drive to church for the first time by ourselves, get lost, and be 10 minutes late.  We found out that roads are not really marked very well, and most of them change names 3 or 4 times in a mile.  

Monday - go to the big grocery store (which is only a 10 minute walk) and buy a whole cartload of groceries (and  I mean a cartload, it was almost overflowing).  Some of our more exciting purchases - toilet paper and paper towels (it's hard to carry them both back and pull a cart with groceries and push a stroller), lots of canned goods and spaghetti sauce, 6 liters of milk, and 80 diapers!

Tuesday - another IKEA run is planned, but this time it should only take a couple of hours max as it is only a 15 minute drive (but a 45 minute to an hour bus ride).

Wednesday - we're headed on a quick trip to Normandy, home of the famous D-day beaches.

Friday - we might be so tired from our vacation by then that we'll need to rest at home all day.

Saturday - I'm sure I'll come up with something, just not sure what yet.

Sunday - back to church, this time without getting lost, to return our treasure to our friends.

My cupboard stuffed with canned goods (and a few cookies and some chocolate to balance things out)

And the rest of our treasures (hmmm...never thought I'd call toilet paper a treasure)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wayne's interpretations of the international language learning standards (along with our current levels of competency)

You might be wondering, how do you know when you're competent enough in French (oh yeah, and what level are you at now)? Well, actually, there are international standards. Here's a link to more official definitions. I'll give you my interpretation of those definitions. The levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.

A1 - You know common phrases, can tell people basic facts about yourself and even understand basic questions from others when they speak with an extremely slow southern drawl.

A2 - You can now move out of the fish bowl where you're only good for people looking at you and asking where you're from and where you're going. You can actually go ask for stuff at stores, give directions and can understand people who speak with just a regular ole southern drawl.

B1 - You no longer have to just talk about yourself and the things in front of you. You now can discuss abstract ideas (like why The Andy Griffith Show is still the best show ever, or why you think that even though the past 2 decades have mostly been depressing, next year N.C. State will be good).

B2- Native speakers begin to be less bored with you because they can watch you speak without seeing you painfully search your inner dictionary.

C1 - At this point, you're kicking some butt. You could probably understand more complex dialogue like in this video.

C2 - You've just about gotten native at this point. It says you can understand just about anything read or heard. I'm not sure I'm here in English.

Before we leave, we would like to be around B2, C1. It kinda stinks that now that making a C is a good thing, it'll be hard for me to do. If you're wondering what level we're at now, Hilary is at the upper end of A2 and this clip explains where I'm at.

Yeah, you guessed it. Somewhere in A1.

I'm proud of my husband

Remember when you were a kid and you'd bring home a good report card?  Well, Wayne got back his test this week and it deserved to go right on the fridge!  The writing on it says "Bravo, you have made a lot of progress, keep it up!" (in a Hilary translation).  Wayne has really been improving in his speaking skills.  One of our new friends from church even told him on Sunday that he thought Wayne was really improving, and apparently, when you get a compliment from a French person, it really means something.  The French don't give out compliments very easily.  He also told Wayne "I wondered why you decided to go to a French speaking African country instead of an English speaking one.  A month ago, I thought you maybe had made a mistake.  Today, I don't think so.  I think you made the right choice and you'll do well!"

I just wanted to brag a little on my husband :)  And I'm not the only one who thinks he's pretty amazing!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Learning a language is a lot like the Christian life in general

Total immersion works! Once you're immersed in a language, you'll learn it.

I've heard this statement numerous times from people who have gone through the process of learning a language. Although, the past 2 months have created many occasions where I question this advice. Will it really come? Simple everyday tasks create numerous opportunities where I can't find the word I want, can't express the thought I'm thinking, or can't begin to understand what is being said to me. And yet for some reason, I press on.

There are numerous reasons to press on, but a major one involves taking by faith the statement that "Total immersion works." Yes, it's the most mentally exhausting activity I've ever done. Yes, it's the most humbling activity I've ever attempted. But, I take on faith that "Total immersion works." 

Regarding the Christian life, I've often considered the wisdom, "trusting God works," as simply accepting the complete deferment of joy until the afterlife. I focus solely on the current blank stare on my face and fail to realize this isn't a permanent condition. Trusting God involves complete trust, but not complete deferment of joy. 

Similar to learning a language, many days include nothing but frustration, yet I hold on to the hope that one day a new world of expressing myself will be opened. One day, I will get and tell inside jokes in another language. 

One day, but, as C. S. Lewis describes the gradual growing joy in the life of a Christian (again eerily similar to learning a language), "he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. . . This will not . . . happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy birthday to our favorite person in the whole world!

Here's a video tribute to the best mommy in the whole world. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Picture of the week - exhaustion

So I was checking on Addie the other night and this is how I found her.  She loves to read at night, but apparently it was just too much for her that night.  I showed Wayne the picture and he said "That's how I feel when I read French too!"  It's true, learning a new language is exhausting.  No matter how many hours of sleep I get, I still haven't really felt rested.  When I finish class every afternoon, the last thing I want to do is to do my homework, I just want to rest!  I sit in a chair all day, but by the end of the day, I am exhausted!  We were wondering when we started why we have a week of vacation after the first 7 weeks of class.  Now we know and we can't wait for our week off! We love what we are doing now, but boy is it hard work.

And a bonus picture this week, just because I love it, and I love them!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Life without a car

We don't have a car here in France, and in some ways it's great...no repairs!  But in other ways, it's tough.  Life is a little less convenient without a car.  For example, let me tell you about my day.  I decided yesterday that I would go to IKEA today with a friend because our mattress is really hard.  We decided to get a mattress pad so that I wouldn't have to sleep in the living room on our spare bed.  I looked online and found what we want and they said online that they came rolled, so I thought "No problem!".  Well, Elise and I hopped on the bus this morning with our little cart and headed off to IKEA.  Well, first of all you should know that IKEA is about 15 minutes away by car, but by bus it takes 45 minutest to an hour.  Well, we were not deterred and even found a way to cut 10 minutes off the trip by walking a bit and making a different connection.  We would have made in less than 45 minutes if the bus we first got on went the whole route instead of going out of service 6 stops into our trip. So we hopped off and waited for the next bus (about a 10 minute wait).  We finally got to IKEA after about 50 minutes.  I found what I wanted, asked the IKEA lady in my best French how much it cost (it still took us a while to communicate even with my best French) and she printed off the receipt for us to pick up our item.  Here's the catch, you don't pick it up downstairs, but 1 km away at the IKEA pick up location.  I almost said "Are you kidding?" but I don't know how to say that in French.  I told her that we took the bus and she sort of gave me a "good luck" smile and we headed off to check out.  I told the check out lady the same thing "I took the bus and walked here" (in my best French) and she drew me a little map and told me how to get to the place.  I recognized enough words that I thought I knew how to get there.  Well, we made it to the other IKEA building, and picked up my mattress pad.  It was rolled into about a foot and a half diameter and was about 5 feet tall.  They put it on a cart I think to take it out to my car, but I just smiled and pointed at my little cart.  I tried to use my best French with the man there too, but as soon as I opened my mouth, he started talking in English to me.  So, we loaded it onto our little pull car and secured it with some packing tape and back out on the street to the bus stop we go.  I'm not quite sure what people thought as we rolled it onto the bus, so I tried not to look at them.  We made a quick stop at ToysRUs on the way home too.  I got some really funny looks as I wheeled my cart and pad and all into the store and asked if I could leave it at the counter.  One man was nice enough to try and understand what I was saying and then even joke with me about the nice gift I brought him.
Soooo...4 hours later, we made it home with my new bed.  I guess Wayne should just be glad that he didn't have to go buy me a whole new mattress, that would have made an even better story.  But the strange thing about the whole morning is that it wasn't even that stressful.  We had a great time chatting, the 45 minute bus ride didn't even seem that long, and I wasn't even that bothered that I had to lug a mattress pad home on the bus.  It's amazing what you get used to!  So while life with a car would be more convenient, God has given us the grace to adjust to life as it is without.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Never let your schooling interfere with your education

This quote (I think by Mark Twain) was advice given to us last summer during our 2 week training on language acquisition techniques. The main point of the quote for language learning was, don't forget that your goal is to communicate with other people, not to ace a verb conjugation test (although conjugating verbs correctly does help get your point across to people better). Thus, don't spend all of your time doing homework and studying for a test. Get out and talk to people!

One way that I've been able to do this is by basketball. I've begun practicing with a team and it's been great so far for getting practice in both listening to French and speaking. 

Probably the neatest part of this opportunity though is that the coach is from the same city we're moving to: Thies, Senegal. Last night, she was trying to teach me some Wolof phrases (the main African language in Senegal) using French (she doesn't speak English). Needless to say, we didn't cover much.

It's pretty cool to think that playing basketball is a great way for me to achieve my main objective in France, learn French. It doesn't hurt that I'm getting back in shape at the same time either (actually, it does kind of hurt today). 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I love Wednesdays!

I love the French system.  No school on Wednesdays!  We have been using Wednesdays to spend some time together as a family as we often get busy on the weekends with language learning activities, especially church on Sundays. 
Today we took the metro to a park in the next suburb.  Parc de Sceaux is kind of like a mini Versailles (I think anyways).  The gardens were created by the same person and we were quite impressed with the place, even in January.  I can't wait to see it in the spring and summer!

Here are a few pictures from our day together.  It was a cold one!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm not no account, just ignorant

One of the main struggles right now, is feeling no account. I can no longer do many of the things I could do with a decent degree of competency back home. Back home, if asked to preach a sermon, no problem. I'm not saying it would be anything great, but I could do it. But in French, it's not possible. To express even the simplest of ideas in French right now requires a great deal of effort.

Before this experience of language learning, I don't think I realized how much I relied on my competency to feel important. I found significance in being an engineer, a good student, being able to preach/teach, etc. Now that my competency is gone, I'm needing to find significance in something else. I'm being reminded of a truth that I've known before but had not fully appreciated. The truth is that I am "in Christ." 

The Bible speaks often of the Christian being "in Christ," which is truly a loaded statement. One aspect of being "in Christ" is that my significance is now found in the fact that I'm associated with Christ. The fact that through faith I am associated with Christ and therefore a child of God, I don't need to find significance in my competency. Regardless of how my situation changes, I will always have significance because of my relationship with Christ. 

This truth has proven to be extremely encouraging as I don't see myself becoming very competent again real soon. And finally, pray that as my competency slowly increases, that my feeling of significance does not simultaneously shift back to competency and away from God.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Picture of the week - adaptation

What you do when the washer and dryer cost 2 euros each and they're not that big!  The unused top bunk, a drying rack and a dehumidifier worked great! At least when we get to Senegal we won't have any problems.  I believe the forecast is hot and dry at least 360 days of the year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I love having theological and philosophical discussions, and this morning, we had a great one.  We talked about "l'avenir", the future.  We read some quotes by philosophers and writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Albert Einstein.  We talked about having control over somethings in our lives, but not others.  We talked about the will of God and choice.  We talked about who knows the future and about not worrying about the future.  We talked about the certainty of some things, such as the return of Christ, and the uncertainty of others, such as what will I be doing in 5 years?  

I love having these discussions but they do give my brain a workout.  And this morning not only was it a topic that involved some thinking, it was all in French!  My brain feels like it ran a half marathon.  

I think I need a nap.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What language learning feels like on a daily basis

So, with my limited vocabulary I've had numerous 30 second - 2 minute conversations in the past few weeks and thus creating numerous "big gulp" moments. I guess the fact that I was a nerdy engineer in the U.S. has somewhat helped me prepare.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Picture of the week - Joy

I decided to start a new category, Picture of the week blogs.  Time will tell if  it actually comes every week or not, but we'll try.

After eating all of her dinner, Addie got some bread with "that stuff" on it!

We live in Paris!...

...and we have pictures to prove it!  Wednesday we hopped on the train and headed into Paris with some new friends of ours from school.  We live in a southern suburb, so it was about a 15 minute walk and a 20 minute train ride to the city.  We went to a bookstore where are I bought a real French dictionary (meaning the definitions are in French too!) I was a little disappointed when I asked the lady where to find the specific dictionary in my best French and her answer was "Downstairs."  Guess I'll have to keep working on the accent.  The rest of the day we spent walking around the city and seeing the sights.

We didn't go in the Louvre this time (we'll save that for a date without Addie:)) but here we are at the really cool entrance.

We of course had to go to McDonalds while we were there.  And wouldn't you know that the "Big" sandwich was described as the "taste of America returns." (at least I think that's what it says, it's only week 2)

And who can be in Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.

The first train stop for us in the city is right here in front of Notre Dame (well, it stops it seems like 3 stories and a maze of stairs below, but we finally found our way up to the surface).

And here are Addie and her new friend Elias (she has discovered that she knows 2 Elias' now!) on the metro.

And if you are wondering why we went into Paris on a Wednesday, it is because they have this wonderful schedule here of 2 days on, one day off, 2 days on, 2 days off!  Even the kids have Wednesdays off school.  We really like it and hope to be able to use those days to keep doing cultural things and using our French.