Saturday, January 27, 2007

What's Going on With YOU?

You've heard a ton of information about what's been going on in our lives over the past month...


Leave us a comment if you'd like =)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why Didn't I Take French In High School?

Next time you see your language arts teacher, say thank you. That teacher, along with your parents, siblings, friends, even the television, gave you one of the best gifts you’ve ever received: the ability to communicate. I’ve never understood just how vital the ability to communicate through words is until I didn’t have the aptitude to use any.

Saturday morning we embarked on what we thought would be a typical weekend camping trip, similar to all the ones we’ve been on before with our church youth group at home. We got hooked up with this camp through the church we’ve been attending here in Belgium. Here’s what we knew about this camp before we left: the bus leaves at 10:00AM Saturday morning, the kids are ages 8-12, the bus returns Sunday at 5:00PM. How tough can 8-12 year old kids be? Even though they don’t really speak English, it should be pretty fun, right? Fun doesn’t even begin to describe the adventure we experienced. I’m thinking about how to best sum up how we felt during our weekend. The words that come to mind are, outcast, awkward, useless, uncomfortable, estranged, just to name a few.

All of the 70 children spoke only French, except for two girls who’s parents are from the States. These girls translated for me, so I was able to get to know a few of them. James was disappointed he wasn’t able to find one boy camper who could speak or understand English. There were a few counselors who were very interested in increasing their skill in English, they worked very hard at conversing with us. They especially enjoyed the American slang that James taught them. It’s funny how you don’t realize the rules your own language has until you hear other people using it incorrectly. Here’s one question I was asked, “Would you say ‘what’s up dog’ to a girl?”.

When you can’t speak the language, the games don’t make sense, you can’t laugh with them, you can’t ask them what their name is without saying yours and pointing to yourself like Tarzan, “Me Jennifer, you Jane?”. I felt guilty not knowing more French than the basics (thanks to my friend Anna for teaching me many useful words!). Nothing could have prepared us for the language barrier that existed between us and the people we were spending the weekend with. Just imagine what it would be like if the only means of communication you had were hand motions. Very limiting.

Our main job was working in the kitchen. Thankfully the head chef spoke fairly good English, so he was able to speak to us and translate. We really enjoyed learning some traditional Belgian recipes and avoiding the awkwardness of no English speakers while in the kitchen. The funniest part of the trip came while we were attempting to play some board games with the kids. Suddenly, we noticed they were getting their shoes on. We looked out the window, and they were walking away…they were leaving! An announcement was made in French to let everyone know that the bus was here, and we were so clueless as to what was going on around us that we were almost left behind!

Didn't know James knew how to bake, did you?


We learned a lot from this experience. Although we do not have to learn another language in Scotland, we will be living in a totally different culture. I know there will be times when we feel like total outcasts, awkward, uncomfortable, and on the fringes of the community. James and I relied on each other much more than we typically would in social situations. We were reminded of how much we need strength from God’s love and provision. This has been a needed reminder of how difficult our endeavors may be, and that we can gain our strength from a God who’s love is not constrained by language, distance, or awkwardness.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lots of Pictures, a Few Details

Here's a quick summary of part of our weekend.

Wednesday Evening: Attended youth group that has been in operation for 70 years. We didn't know anyone, met a couple of people who spoke limited English. The music was awesome, best youth group band we've ever heard. They sang a couple of songs in English, we were stoked. We'll be going back each Wednesday for the rest of the month.

Thursday: Slept in for the first time this month, loved it! Enjoyed a lazy morning. Decided to brave the intense wind and rain and travel to Antwerp. There was a crazy windstorm, the trains were delayed, we heard later at least 25 people died in Europe from the same storm, very sad.

James is hoping to have a statue constructed after him.

Art in Antwerp

Friday: Took a train all the way to the the Northern coast, saw the coast and the North Sea. Visited the town of Brugge. It's so picturesque! We felt like we were in a storybook, or an extreme amusement park. Hung out with a family who has three young kids. They're raising money to move to Ethiopia and do medical ministry. You'll see a picture of the kids below, they're all totally enthralled with James.

On the coast of the North Sea

Cute Kids

Beautiful Brugge

More about the rest of the weekend to come!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Amazing Race...Belgian Edition

These last few days have been a blur. I remember saying something about a slower pace of life…well, it’s picked up a little bit.

Friday we were asked to meet together as a group at 8:30 AM (about 20 of us) for an undisclosed event. We were broken up into 6 person teams and given a sheet of instructions and a time limit of 9 hours. It was a game just like the Amazing Race television show, only confined to one country. We had such a great time. Our team subdivided into two smaller teams. Myself, James and a friend named Jeff went to Ghent to collect all the info we needed, and the other half went to Brussels and Antwerp to get everything else.

Here we are taking a picture of De Grill Restaurant to complete our Amazing Race checklist. Notice James pointing to his "grill."

We learned a couple of things. Ghent is a great place we’ll be visiting again, it has the best waffles in all of Belgium, and you never know who you’ll run in to. While in the visitor’s center, a girl came up to James after hearing his American accent. Turns out she lives in Newport News, Va., and goes to Liberty College! Who would’ve thought.

Mmmmmm...Belgian Waffles covered in Belgian Chocolate!

Saturday we met up with the American couple (who have been working with the French speaking church in Brussels for 16 years) to help them with a project they’re working on. They’re hoping to open up a multi-purpose storefront/coffe shop/counseling center to be open to people who are looking for some guidance or just a friend to listen. This area of Brussels was located outside the city walls during the Middle Ages and since then has continued to be a community of downtrodden, desolate, and lonely people. We walked around, looking for For Rent signs, and prayed with them for God’s guidance. They also told us a lot about Brussel’s history. Our day with them ended at a Turkish Doner restaurant. Similar to Greek food with lamb pita sandwiches flavored with a yogurt sauce.

James and I continued our day with some more exploration of downtown Brussels. We ran into a celebration of soup week and got some free Tomato soup and bread, a nice treat. And I was super excited when we saw some “Free Hugs” girls. Of course, I got a free hug.

Here's James enjoying some free tomato soup in front of the tent where they served it

I LOVE FREE HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Many of our nights have ended with our new favorite board game, Ticket to Ride, and enjoying a new Belgian beer. Many of you will be playing this game soon, it’s tons of fun.

Sunday morning we experienced another French service, this time with a translator, which helped a ton. We spoke with a church member afterward and found out all about the church’s mission to Central Africa. It’s an awesome story, we’d love to talk to our friends about it who have faithfully served in Uganda for so many years, you’d love to hear about their dedication and love, so similar to yours.

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a much needed nap, mostly because of our limited hours of sleep that allowed James to listen to some of the Eagle’s game (it began at 2:00AM our time). In the evening we visited a Community some friend’s of ours have been attending (some of them are in the picture posted in the last blog entry). It’s called the Well, a very postmodern church that meets in a restaurant. It’s different in many ways, one is the lack of preaching, more of a presentation and then discussion in small groups. We enjoyed it.

Then we enjoyed dinner at the above mentioned restaurant. Sandwiches and frites (French fries, which are misnamed since they are originally from Belgium). They really are amazing. And yes, they do use mayonnaise, my dream come true. Not only do they use mayonnaise, but they serve many types of flavored mayonnaise. The one downfall, they charge for it.

The past couple of days have been some classroom training...tons of great information. Here’s a cool thing I’ve learned (if you don’t particularly care about what the Bible teaches about marriage, no need to read any further). God says a wife should be a help to her husband. I’ve never really had a good working definition of what that means. But, the same Greek word that is used in Genesis to describe Eve’s role in Adam’s life, is used to describe God’s role in the lives of the Israelites while they are at battle with enemy nations, as well as during other times of distress. Essentially, we are our husband’s right hand during war (i.e. during life). And since we all know that God is essential to His people, it makes me pretty excited about my role in my husband’s life and in our marriage.

Again, sorry for the novel, but I’m experiencing some pretty cool stuff here, and it’s easy to write a bunch. Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve made it this far.

We miss you all so very much, thanks for the encouraging emails and prayers!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More on Belgium: Culture, Trappist Beer, and Waffles

It's amazing the effect your own culture has on your worldview.

We've been learning about the different things that shape us, some being: culture, family, and innate characteristics. It's incredible the differences in culture that occur just among the various states in America. We played a game that exhibited how where we grew up impresses upon us the "right" and "wrong" ways to act. It's hard to understand just how much our own culture is ingrained in us until we leave our own. We've also learned about conflict and how we tend to respond to it, as well as a process to resolve conflict. All of it very helpful knowledge to have. The most interesting thing is realizing that knowing yourself is the first key to adapting successfully to a new culture. Sounds very boring, but seriously, we've loved it.

We've had lots of time to learn from the instructors here, who have had years of overseas work experience. And we've also had tons of free time. This has been a thing of beauty as well as a challenge. James and I are used to moving at warp speed, between work, rasing support for Scotland, and renovating the house. We are given free time to process the information we're receiving, as well as time to explore the city and serve with the church we are working with. Couple that free time with the slower pace of life in Europe, and we're dealing with a totally different lifestyle. You just have to assume that something will take at least 15-30 minutes longer here than it would in the States. Quality of life and relationships are much more important than being productive, efficient, or completeing the to-do list. We love this mentality...but it's very different and difficult to get used to. I'm so glad for the experience because life in the Highlands of Scotland is even slower!

This morning we met a couple who have been missionaries in Belgium for 16 years. They are a part of the French speaking church we will be going to while we're here. They told us of some opportunities we have this month to observe the culture of their church and serve the people of the neighborhoods around their church building. We'll also be spending two days at a camp for kids between the ages of 5-12. You'll read more on this as it happens.

Today we spent the day in the downtown area of Brussels. It was a great day. The weather was crazy: rainy, super windy, chilly, cloudy...a typical European winter day. We walked around all day, saw some incredible sights, took tons of pictures. To celebrate one of our friends' birthday, we had lunch at a pub in the Grand Plaza, a beautiful square with amazing ancient buildings. We enjoyed some delicious Trappist Belgian Beer and are dissapointed we won't be able to get it in the States.

These are our friends that are all planning on going to different areas of the world.

Me and James standing in the Grand Plaza in downtown Brussels.

We also ate our first Belgian waffle! Very yummy, and sweet!
Thanks for reading, check back soon for more!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Brussels Part Deux (From James)

Hello to all once again,

First to clear some things up- we are in Brussels Belgium for the
month of January, doing our pre-field training with Mission to the
World(MTW). We will be paired with a french speaking church for the
month, working alongside them with their youth. It should be
interesting with the language barrier.

We have had some interesting things happen to us over the last couple
of days. One of the most notable was almost be pick pocketed coming
home from church on the tram in Brussels. There were some strange
things going on around us, and i looked down and noticed someones hand
in my pocket. I grabbed his hand and i think my words were "Don't even
try it buddy". The Lord was watching out for us. Sunday night i stayed
up listening to The Philadelphia Eagles win on a last second field
goal. It was around 3:30 Brussels time when i finally went to bed, but
it was well worth staying up. Thank the Lord for the internet.

We have spent most of Monday in team building and cultural training
exercises, that have been alot of fun, but also very useful. Tommorow
will be more of the same. We look forward to Thursday, Friday and
Saturday to begin work with the youth of the Fench speaking church.

We thank you for your prayers.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Brussels, Part I

If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that Business Class people live it up.

Our trip to Dulles was quite uneventful, thankfully. Mr. B. served beautifully again as our ride and last words of wisdom before departing the States. And even sent us off with tons of dark chocolate M&M's.

We made it apparent that we are not seasoned travelers when we were stopped at the security checkpoint for making a couple of violations:
1. We didn’t take the laptop out of the bag and run it through separately (so it was loudly proclaimed to everyone, “BAG CHECK!”
2. We sorta forgot about the whole liquids must be 3oz. or smaller in a clear plastic bag. Well, I remembered on some things, but not others for some reason. James didn’t think about it at all. So in a rush to get it all taken care of, we stuffed a bunch of stuff in James’ backpack so he could run back and make it checked baggage. I didn’t realize until later just how many essentials we had stuffed, never to be seen again…for many hours.

When checking in at the gate, we requested seats with a little leg room, thinking that the emergency exit would be just fine, with James’ extra long legs and all. The kind lady let us know how unlikely that would be, but try she would. The boarding began and we got in line. Well, we ended up being the last to board since they were still processing our request. The lady at the counter said something unintelligible in a very thick accent and ended with, “Happy New Year (words we couldn’t understand) Buisness Class.” Could it be? We walked the plank with giddiness and anticipation of possibly having the perks we would never pay extra for. Gift of all gifts for’s true: business class for the Murphy’s! We spent the first hour being amazed at the amenities we would enjoy. First of all, and most notably, the leg room. Lack of leg room is always an issue for 6’4’’ James. Not on this flight. And I realize I’m short, with even shorter legs, but I could stretch my legs out completely at a 90 degree angle and not come close to touching the seat in front of me. We began the flight with a complimentary glass of champagne…fancy. Then we fooled around with all the buttons on the reclining chair that was pretty much a Lazy Boy recliner. Other perks that were lavished on us:
-Complimentary Comfort Kit, complete with slipper socks, a shoe bag, an eye mask, personal hygiene products, etc.
-Personal video monitors with a plethora of movies, games, music, and animated map that shows the route of our airplane.
-All the free Danish beverages your heart could desire
-Gourmet meal that (shockingly) were good.
-A snack/drink bar that was accessible to us at all times during the flight.
-A personal outlet so we could charge our Mac.
-Being treated like we’re rich, even though we’re not.

Even with all those wonderful qualities, sleeping on a plane doesn’t get easier for me. We probably slept 20 minutes combined during the 8 hour trip. I’m so bummed I didn’t get an Ambien Rx.

We got to Copenhagen, Denmark around 7:00am, their time (1:00am EST). Our plane wasn’t leaving until 3:00pm so we roamed around Copenhagen for a few hours. It was Saturday, but this country seriously sleeps in. It’s a decent size city, about 1million, and we had the streets almost completely to ourselves. Nothing opened, and the streets didn’t get busy, until 10:00am. It’s a great, old city. The sad thing is, scattered among these beautiful ancient buildings are Micky D’s, 7-11’s, KFC’s, and THREE story Burger Kings. It just cheapens the appearance of it, in my opinion.
James showing his true cultural allegiance. Notice the huge neon Micky D's sign, upper right.

We strolled around for a while and visited the Copenhagen National Museum because it was cold outside and admission was free.
Can you see me? Almost missed me under Absalon, founder of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Exquisite sunrise over the 9:30 am!

We both enjoyed a nap in the airport on a quasi-couch: much needed. Thankfully the flight from Copenhagen to Brussels was only 1.5 hours (no upgrade to Business Class this time).

We’ve settled into our accommodations, a dorm-style building. No bunk beds as we had expected, thankfully. Wireless internet (what would we do without it???), lots of strong coffee, and semi-decent food (we’ve talked about eating less anyway!). Some great friends we’ve met during prior training sessions are here which has been really exciting.

This morning we visited the church we’ll be working with during the month. Get this…it’s totally in French. Didn’t think we spoke French? You’re right, we were totally lost. At least everyone in the world speaks English conversationally; makes me feel kinda guilty/lazy that I don’t speak any other languages. Oh well, isn’t that what being an American is all about? j/k.

James is napping and I’m headed that way. Hopefully this jet-lag will wear off soon. Any ideas how long that usually takes? What’s more difficult, traveling East or West, let me know all you veteran travelers.

Thanks for reading, future posts probably won't be such novels, but no promises.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Here we go...

Today I've taken the day off work to do all the last minute preps to leave for Belgium. James and I are leaving from Dulles Friday at 5:00 to fly to Brussels, Belgium to spend a month learning stuff. We'll be getting all kinds of cultural, linguistic, and team-building training while there that will help us be prepared to move to Scotland for two years to attempt to be missionaries. And we'll also be enjoying Belgian Frites, Belgian Waffles, Belgian Beer, and Belgian Chocolate.

I feel as though normalcy as we know it will cease to exist after this trip. All of our efforts will be focused on getting us to Scotland. It's gonna be crazy.

Tune in for regular updates.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Has it really been a week already???

Friday: Worked until 1:30 (as half day's are the usual custom of dental offices). Picked up a few items at Kroger. Picked up some dry cleaning, dropped off some pants to be hemmed since all pants are made to fit women 5'6'' and above. Arrived home to find mother, father, and sister's-in-laws demolishing our upstairs bathroom. In case you're wondering, this is a good thing. Visited with my favorite aunt and her two girls, my favorite cousins (if the rest of the extended family is reading, I love the rest of you very much, you come in a close second). Joined in the demo. Heard stories of a squirrels nest being discoverd and falling on sister-in-laws head when a portion of the celing was torn down. Yes, a squirrel's nest in our attic. This is bad, but not as bad as the raccoons that resided there two years ago. Spent the rest of the day in demolition mode. Found the rest of the squirrel nest. Went to friends house to take a shower since ours was full of plaster and lathe board. Came home to drink a beer on the couch and fell asleep half way through.

Saturday: Slept in 'till 10:00. Discovered Husband and I had a craving for Rainbow Donuts and left to pick some up. So bummed out when arrived only to find out they're closed for the holiday's. Settled for sub-par Krispy Kreme. Picked up cold meds for husband and Cafe Du Monde coffee for Christmas presents for my two wonderful friends who took me to New Orleans for a wedding gift. Enjoyed donuts and started again on finishing the demolition work. Ate dinner: Pork that James had slow roasted in the pit out back (same pit used for Pig Roast #1 and Porktoberfest). Went to aforementioned friends apartment in Shockoe Bottom again to take showers. Marveled at her amazing view of downtown Richmond.

Sunday: Made a pot of coffee and wanted to drink the whole thing. Went to Sunday school and worship service. Served as an usher for the first time ever: handed out bulletins and collected the offering...didn't screw up. Heard an interesting sermon on whether God created extraterrestrials that live in another area of the universe. Had lunch at home with parents, nephew and family friends that are in town for the weekend. Relaxed with husband. Went to Blare's house for a rockin' New Year celebration. Enjoyed seeing many friends that I've grown accustomed to seeing at the 20N Boulevard parties, always a blast. They are great hostesses. Ventured out to Cary Town for the Ball Rise (not drop). Pleasantly surprised at what a great time it was, Richmond gained some more cool points. Shoulder to shoulder people, everyone having tons o' fun. Hung out some more at 20North. Hung out some more at home until super late, 3:30. Latest I've stayed up since college! Slept in until 11:00.

Monday: Exchanged some Christmas gifts, cleaned the house, threw away/gave away lots of stuff we didn't need. Organized stuff so it will be easier to pack for Belgium (leaving Friday). Worked out with sister-in-law Hannah, some cardio and lots of weights. Favorite machine, inner and outer thigh worker thingamajig, I'll be sore tomorrow.