I am glad that we took a brief hiatus from sending regular email while we were at Scott Theological College last month going through AIM’s Africa-Based Orientation. It alleviated much stress, since the power frequently went off and was often off for a whole day at a time. Of course, without power, there is no internet (unless you hook up through the cell lines, which we weren’t doing yet). When the power was on, the only time for internet was at meals, and when one is also trying to entertain and feed a two-year old, multi-tasking did not work well!

In those brief moments when power was on and Zoe was sufficiently under control, usually the wireless was on. But even then, it wasn’t always hooked up to the internet… So, along with what was on the menu, we always approached the intener with the attitude, “well, let’s see what it will be today…” and kept the expectations in check.

Such little things really do help in several ways: by severing our connection to the “outside” world, we were able to visit more with the folks right around us, and we learned just a little more of thinking in terms of days or even weeks, rather than minutes and hours…and being okay with that. “It’s not wrong…it’s just different.”

Zoe loved feeding the local goats. The female, the white goat, gave birth while we were there to a cute little clone of its brown daddy.

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… Let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching. (Heb 10:24-25)

Slick celebrated a very special day yesterday, and invited the entire school to join him…

Friend, fellow missionary and fellow French student, Celine, is amazing at creating cakes. Rather than candles, the chocolate-dipped rasberries represented the number of years (please don't count!).

Zoe makes Daddy take a break from running & studying

Slick ran the other day. He wants to run these short training runs at 8 minutes per mile. He’s training for the Paris marathon and he’d like to run it in under in four hours (roughly 9 minutes per mile). But on this run, he initially didn’t have a set goal. He just wanted run and put in a little effort.

But somewhere during the first half of his out-and-back run along the foot of the snow-muted Alps, God led him to set a more solid pace for the second three miles. Without looking at the GPS that told him his pace, Slick simply stepped it up a notch. He noted the time when he turned around.

The whole way back, he just focused on running a good strong tempo, giving it his best effort, but determined leave the results to God, rather than consulting the GPS for feedback along the way.

When he hit “stop” at the end of the run, he discovered he’d run exactly 8 minutes per mile. Not 8:01, not 7:59. His best effort at doing what God had laid upon him to do, plus the empowerment God gave for carrying out His command, was exactly enough, not one iota too much, nor too little.

And so it is with what He sets before us to do. Our best effort, plus His enablement, is exactly enough. Not too much, and not too little. In His hand, our all is sufficient for Him, and in our lives, He is sufficient for us.

At the school, Zoe found a pair of skis that fit her and her face almost got stuck in a huge grin after her first day on them

Although we greeted the New Year with snores of very welcome sleep, we woke up to another bright, beautiful day in 2011, thanks be to the God Who holds this all together and keeps it running1.

He not only gives us the gift of this Earth and each day on it, but He gave us some very special gifts this Christmas. The first was a set of skate skis for Donna. She’s loved skate skiing since she lived in Colorado many years ago, but since she doesn’t often get to skate (like, twice in 15 years!), she could never justify buying a pair of skate skis, which cost several hundred dollars. But as we visited with good friends in Germany, they mentioned that someone had given the wife a set of skate skis. They didn’t like skating the one time they tried it, however, would we like the skis? We could barely dare to say, yes! But they very generously gave us not only a pair of skate skis, but the boots and poles, too, which fit Donna perfectly! An unexpected gift from God that spoke volumes in a very unique way.

If that weren’t enough, this just happened to happen only a couple days before we were going to XC ski and snowshoe for a few days over the vacation. God authored this story, then signed it with His special signature of coincidence, a small miracle where God remains anonymous.

Then He continued to shower kindness on us, allowing us four wonderful days of exploring a winter mountain valley with all its associated beauty and fun: seemingly endless XC ski and snowshoe trails for Mommy and Daddy, and use of a sled for sliding along the walking paths and down 1+km sledding hills for Zoe (and Mommy & Daddy!).

Sometimes it makes me wonder what Africa will be like, that God is filling us with such wonder and joy now. I quite willingly walk His path now, with all the blessings He showers upon us. Will I walk it as joyfully when it moves down the mountain slopes and into the shadows and valleys? Lord, teach me to fix my eyes ever on You2, here where I can see You clearly, so that I’ll still be able to see You through the haze that will likely come, as You draw us along this path of life on Earth.

Hiking the road less traveled in the Alps.

1. Colossians 1:17
2. Romans 12:1-3

At the finish of the Athens Classic Marathon in the Olympic Stadium

Yes, Donna did finish the marathon (see the October update). You can read some thoughts about it on her blog. Since then (since the end of October) we have been continuing to appreciate the little things that color our short time here on earth. For example, we tried to find the “old chateau” on the hill above our house four times before we actually found it. Along the way, we discovered some really cool abandoned bunkers – perfect for a picnic in rainy weather – and a great trail through the woods. When we finally found the chateau (muscling up the hill through shin-deep snow, carrying Zoe), it had only two small piles of stone standing vertical beside what was once a fireplace.

Chateau Chantemerle, perfect set of medieval ruins for exploring on a sunny afternoon


But as Michael Card wrote, there is a joy in the journey. Around here, the journey comes complete with cowbells. I can still here people at the triathlons in SC shouting, “more cowbell!” and dreading having to pass such a cacophony. But here in the Alps, it’s a very peaceful sound – whether the bells hang from cow necks or goat necks – and it always reminds me of racing.


We’ve had several opportunities to visit with people and/or hike with them, guilt-free. Not only are we furthering our acquaintance with others in the body of Christ, but we are furthering our language skills as well. It’s one of our favorite ways to do that!

Subject: mountain sunrise. Artist: God.

Finally, the folks who rent our house in SC (we couldn’t sell it when we left) have been having a bear of a time with it. For us it was a great house, but they had the roof leak, a tree fall on it, and now a decent-sized house fire. While it’s a little extra work for us, it’s occurred to me that God has been really bugging them! So our small group of women here at the school prayer yesterday morning that somehow God would draw our renters to Himself through this latest challenge, coming at this special time of year. Then yesterday evening, Slick responded to some of the husband’s comments, and for over an hour he spoke about how God sometimes uses challenge like this one to call people to Himself. God is definitely on the move in Mike’s life!

Even after seeing God answer pray so many times, it still struck me deeply that in this case He chose to answer our prayers on the same day as we prayed. God is good. Abundantly good.

Zoe studies her text wearing her favorite zebra hat. Her aunt Wendy would be proud.

The birds a singing as I sit by our flat’s eastern window, gazing at a medieval city and reflecting. Once upon a time, I was so concerned about what people thought of me that I’d do almost anything to make sure they approved. Yet I considered myself humble because I didn’t think or talk highly of myself.

As I watch low clouds encroach on the walls of Conflans, I ponder what those walls might have witnessed in their thousand years of guard duty. And it seems to me that God places lessons of life all around me, if I look.

I know nothing of the young lovers who must’ve walked hand-in-hand those walls down through all those centuries. Why on Earth should I think my life is more significant than theirs, that it matters what people think of me? Time itself teaches me my insignificance.

Only Jesus shows me my significance, in purchasing my life with His own. Who knows? Perhaps one of those lovers basking in the view of this alpine valley, met Jesus and showed her children who He was. Perhaps they embraced Him then passed on their knowledge of Him to others who passed it on, and the cycle repeated through four thousand generations, until it reached me. The only thing of that young lover’s life that lasted, then, was Jesus in her – her faith.

Even time teaches me my proper place of true humility*: Jesus in me, my faith, is the one thing that might last. So I wonder, what am I doing to live it, and to pass it on? And why do I waste time worrying about what “they” think of me, who will disappear into history in just two or three generations?

Albertville from Conflans. Our house is visible on the far side of the valley.

*It has been said that humility is not thinking little of oneself, but rather, not thinking of oneself at all.

We laid out a blanket on the hills and valleys of white sand on beach outside Marseilles, anchoring the corners with shoes and backpacks. But the moment 13-month-old Zoe hit the beach, she was water-bound. Sand proved too difficult to walk on just yet, so she flopped gracelessly to all fours and continued her beeline toward the surf.

At first we let her go in only as deep as her thighs, but as the afternoon with our friends the Faulkes wore on, we relented to her curiosity and Zoe eventually experienced the shock of cold waves smacking her belly. Her favorite activity, however, was simply picking up handfuls of sand and letting it slide through her fingers. Close behind that was smashing the sandcastles Simon, Lee Ann and their girls made with buckets.

Years ago I (Donna) remember commiserating with my sister that it always seemed that we were waiting for “life” to begin, whatever “life” really was. It just seemed to elude us. Several times since Zoe was born I’ve observed that I emphatically no longer feel that way. In some ways more lives than just Zoe’s began when she was born.

And as difficult as it may be to have heart-level, soul-encouraging conversations with our friends when children’s laughter rings in the air, the children truly are a special smile from God. So what if we adults lose a little sleep to post-bed time fellowship? Wading into that depth of sharing happens more easily in those late hours and refreshes the soul even more than sleep.

"Further, Mommy! Further!"

An advantage of the travels to Germany right on the heels of our arrival in Europe was that we started referring to our flat in France as “home” even though we’d only spent two nights there!

So we’re now back at “home” in France, where we went for a spontaneous bike ride (because the pool was unexpectedly closed) and found ourselves thrown back in time to the middle ages as the trail meandered UP to a medieval town and fort. In other modes of transport, we’re developing the art of getting found once lost and recovering from running on unavoidable (and wonderful!) MOUNTAINS.

“Home” is Albertville, host to the 1992 winter Olympics and a small town tucked into a mountain valley. We hear that hiking trails abound in the hills surrounding it and we look forward to exploring in the coming months. Gals from the French school have been making the transition easier, but as always with moving and travel, things take longer than we imagine…sometimes much longer! God continues to be faithful, however, repeatedly giving far more than we ask or imagine – Mont Blanc (the highest peak in France and home of the famous Chamonix ski resort) is visible from just outside town, the apartment is far bigger and better than we imagined with tons of little charms and it sits at the foot of a road that loses itself in the hills above. And Heather our nanny has been a huge blessing and help. We so appreciate God’s smiles!

The view from our office window.

In another experience of answered prayer, Heather’s, Zoe’s and Donna’s journey to France went almost completely without a hitch. Zoe slept soundly on the floor below the empty seat between us adults. She has adjusted quickly to the quarter-day time difference and even helped us clean the apartment floor with all her wanderings.

Today is her first birthday and she’s already had us laughing at her antics. She stood up on the bed between us for a few moments then raised her arms with great drama and flopped onto Mommy. She’s laughed at and talked with Mickey Mouse, who sat about as tall as she, then went about her climbing all over Mommy, Daddy and the bed. Once successfully making it to the floor, she discovered the diaper crate and pulled out all the diapers. After playing with the bag from the wipes that we just restocked, she was greeted with a stunning rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung by the Diffenhard’s two German children.

Meanwhile, back in France, Albertville is a cute little town tucked into a mountain valley. We hear that trails abound in the hills surrounding it and we look forward to exploring in the coming months. Gals from the French school have been making the transition easier, but as always with moving and travel, things take longer than we imagine. God continues to be faithful, however, repeatedly giving far more than we ask or imagine – Mt Blanc is visible from just outside town, the apartment is far bigger and better than we guessed with tons of little charms and it sits at the foot of a road that loses itself in the hills above. And Heather our nanny has been a huge blessing and help. We so appreciate God’s smiles!

Grandma & Granddad gave Zoe a surprise early first birthday celebrationZoe compares herself to the size of carry-on luggage

Zoe compares herself to the size of carry-on luggage

The car was packed a little full on the way home from the airport...