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Pictures from Mike and Anita James

Mike and Anita James

Reaching Children – Training Leaders

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Tue
3
Jun '14

The Netherlands in Texas

We’ve been gone from The Netherlands for a year now.  At times it has flown by, and at times, it feels like we just got here.  While we’re in America, we do an awful lot of traveling.  This weekend, we were in Spring, TX for morning and night services.  After church Sunday morning, someone told us about a store in Spring called The Little Dutch Girl.  We were hoping to have enough time to go check it out between services, and when we went, we weren’t disappointed.

Our new favorite store in Texas.

Our new favorite store in Texas.

When we walked in, our senses were immediately overwhelmed with things we haven’t seen in a long time.  All three of us were walking around finding some of our favorite things.  When Grace reached the hagelslag section, she was in heaven.  Hagelslag is sprinkles that you put on bread with a little butter.  They didn’t have Grace’s absolute favorite kind, but we did go ahead and get her some that will take care of her breakfasts for a while.  When we showed people, they thought it was crazy to have chocolate for breakfast until I reminded them what Pop-tarts and cereal are: mostly sugar.

Hagelslag

Hagelslag

There were plenty of other things that we enjoyed seeing, but we couldn’t get everything.  I had to remind Grace that it was like buying American things when we’re in The Netherlands.  When it’s imported, it’s going to be much more expensive.

They had pins among other things, and when I saw this one, I really laughed.  My family thinks that I’m pretty opinionated/outspoken (as we all are), but when I come back from The Netherlands, I’m worse than normal.  We like to say that the Dutch people speak with candor.  Others call it bluntness to the point of rudeness.  I’ve gotten used to it, so it’s normal for me.

Probably the funniest thing we saw in the store

Probably the funniest thing we saw in the store

All in all, we were really happy with what all we found.  We weren’t able to get absolutely everything that we wanted, but we got enough to tide us over for a while!

Grace with our goodies

Grace with our goodies

Tue
22
Apr '14

Easter 2014

For an itinerating missionary, it’s rare to have a service on Easter.  We were blessed because we had a pastor at a church we’ve already spoken at who asked us to come and do the children’s service for a special outreach their church was having on Easter.  We love doing things like that.  We truly want to be here in America not only to raise money so we can go back to The Netherlands, but also to bless churches when we can.

So, we did the entire service: songs, games, puppets, message, etc.  The church had a great turn out.  They really worked hard to reach out to their community.  They had breakfast for everyone before the service started and had an Easter egg hunt afterwards.  They really worked at inviting people.  The pastor told us that they normally have about 10 kids in their children’s church, but they had 55 on Sunday.  Wow!

Doing what we love doing

Doing what we love doing

Easter is a strange time for us.  It’s a huge blessing for us to be able to be in America and be with some of our family.  We really enjoyed being with some extended family on Saturday and having dinner together with Mike’s family on Sunday.  It’s also a reminder of the special services we have in The Netherlands and makes us miss our church family very much!  It’s sometimes hard to tell this to family because they think that America is our home.  Of course, if we were in The Netherlands, we would’ve had a great time with friends but missed being with family.  We really do live between two worlds!

We had to get a little something this Easter to remind us of home.

We had to get a little something this Easter to remind us of home.

 

Wed
19
Mar '14

What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting

We definitely weren't expecting this!

We definitely weren’t expecting this!

We are a very happy family of three.  We had Grace 12 years ago.  10 years ago while we were itinerating, we suffered a miscarriage.  It was a devastating loss.  We really wanted to have another baby, but while living in The Netherlands, we had some testing done to see why I wasn’t getting pregnant.  Without going into too many details, I’ll just say that it was 7 years ago when I was told that I couldn’t have any more children.  I had peace about it and told Mike I was happy because we were blessed with one amazing child.

Now that you know that, you can imagine the shock I received 7 years later when I went for a routine checkup at the doctor’s office and was told that I was pregnant.  I honestly thought that it must be some kind of joke or I had misheard.  I didn’t even suspect that I was pregnant.

Everyone has been asking us when we’re going back to The Netherlands.  If we raise all our money when we thought that we would, it would be getting really close to the time that I’m not allowed to fly anymore.  Plus, trying to hurry and get there, find a midwife, find a hospital, find a house and move all our things from storage into it would be a bit overwhelming just weeks before delivering. The due date is actually September 22, and we’re now planning on leaving for The Netherlands at the beginning of January.  I’m sorry to anyone who has asked us in the past couple of months.  We didn’t want to say anything for sure until I was past the first trimester.  Having had a miscarriage while itinerating and having to constantly tell people what happened was a really painful experience that I didn’t want to repeat.

Our plan is also for Mike to go for a several weeks in November to get our housing sorted so that when we come back with a very small baby, I’m not having to get all the furniture arranged, and we can come straight into our own place.

A verse from the Bible that I definitely relate to is Genesis 21:6 – Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”  I understand how Sarah felt.

Tue
18
Mar '14

Memory Lane

Last week, I was really busy with the Arkansas District sectional tour.  It’s actually been going on for the last month, but this week, we had 7 meetings in 4 days.  It was a lot of driving, but it was worth it.  My mom was quite the trooper and went with me to all the meetings.

On Monday, we were in Pine Bluff and Monticello.  This is the part of Arkansas that I know best.  I grew up about 30 minutes from Monticello in Dermott.  If we wanted to go shopping, we would often go to Pine Bluff.  Driving down to Monticello, I asked Mom if she wouldn’t mind driving through Dermott.  It was a little out of the way, but I wanted to see the place where I grew up.

Driving through Dermott doesn’t take very long at all.  Five years ago, we were near there, and I asked Mike if we could drive through.  He said that we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  I promised him that it wouldn’t take long, and I was telling the truth.  That time, I was sad to see that the video store where I worked was torn down, and only the foundation was left.  This time was even sadder for me.  You can really see that the town is dwindling.  The junior high and high schools have been combined, and the grocery store where I had my first job, Piggly Wiggly, has closed.  There are no plans to open another store.

The old Piggly Wiggly

The old Piggly Wiggly

After driving past the closed grocery store, we went down the street where our house and the church are.  It definitely brought back many memories.  When we pulled up by the house, I rattled off the phone number we had for years.  I was surprised that it stuck in my memory.  I would’ve loved to look inside the house and around the back yard, but I didn’t want to look like too much of a stalker.

Our house in Dermott

Our house in Dermott

Right next to the house is the church.  It made it really convenient for getting to church.  I was assaulted with memories of cleaning the church on Saturdays with my sister, teaching Sunday School, playing the flute at church, singing so many times and very special people.

The church in Dermott

The church in Dermott

Even though the town seems to be shrinking, there are still many wonderful memories that it gives me.  I’m curious to see what it will look like the next time I can get there.

 

 

Mon
3
Feb '14

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man!

I’ve got that old Johnny Cash song going through my head this morning.  We normally travel over the weekend and some during the week as well speaking at missions services, but the last few weeks has been a little worse than normal for us.

Two weekends ago, we were out in East Texas.  We clocked in 471 miles that weekend.  Fortunately, we started the process Saturday and came back Sunday.  Like all our services, we’re very happy that we went.  Of course, when your daughter wakes up sick Saturday night in a hotel, you’d really rather be at home with her.  I had to apologize to her and tell her that we couldn’t just go home because of the service the next morning.  Thankfully, God helped her, and she got much better and was able to go on Sunday to two services and even ask for some ice cream Sunday night.  The desire for ice cream apparently has some amazing healing properties.

Itineration in East Texas - love the sights

Itineration in East Texas – love the sights

Last weekend, we were in Northern Arkansas.  We drove 1,043 miles during that trip.  There are many plus sides, but the view is just beautiful!  I’ve had many people tease me over the years about being from Arkansas.  I swept my arm at the scenery and told Mike, “Let them laugh all they want!  This is a beautiful part of the country, and I’m proud to be from Arkansas!”  Also, we have discovered that in the hills of Northern Arkansas, the hills really are alive with the sound of music.  On Sunday night, the pastor asked if anyone had anything special they’d like to sing.  I’ve been in churches where that is a scary thing to ask.  The people who got up and shared were amazing.  Even if bluegrass or country isn’t your preferred style of music, you’ve got to appreciate good musicians, and we definitely appreciated the good music.

This view from the church is just a portion of how pretty it is.  I wish I could have taken a panoramic.

This view from the church is just a portion of how pretty it is. I wish I could have taken a panoramic.

This past weekend, we were in Abilene, TX.  It’s a pretty good drive; this weekend added 451 miles to our car’s odometer.  Even though it was the shortest of the three trips, we got ice while we were there.  The hotel we were staying at is just a few steps from the church we were at Sunday morning.  Thank goodness we didn’t have to drive because our car doors were frozen shut and took a while to open.  We thought that we would have a service Sunday night also, but due to the ice on the roads, it was cancelled.  So, we started on home.  We had some icy patches, but we made it without event – just how I like to travel.

Texas in winter

Texas in winter

This coming Sunday, we’ll be in Ardmore, OK.  It’s only about two hours from here.  We won’t know what to do with such a short trip.  At least it will help us not to feel like we’re becoming permanently attached to the seats in our car.

 

 

Fri
24
Jan '14

Christmas Continues

On December 22, we were at church at Lavon Assembly of God in Lavon, TX.  They greatly blessed our family.  Grace would’ve said that the first blessing is that we didn’t preach or say anything at all, which means that she didn’t have to hear a sermon she’s heard before.  Their kids and youth did a play that morning.  When they were finished, they called us up on the stage.  Grace said that she thought they would just pray for us.  They gave us gift after gift.  I even got an iPad mini, which I can’t tell you how much I’ve used since.  It was amazing!  Then, they gave us a personal offering.  Wow!

This past Tuesday, we drove over to North Richland Hills to LifeChurch because a girls’ class had gotten gifts for Grace for Christmas.  They asked me some things she liked, and they hit home runs with Grace: hoodies, craft things, a dry erase board, and then cash.

Grace with her dry erase board.  I didn't tell them she wanted one, but she said that she was so happy because she's wanted one for a long time.  I guess those girls know what a 12-year old likes.

Grace with her dry erase board. I didn’t tell them she wanted one, but she said that she was so happy because she’s wanted one for a long time. I guess those girls know what a 12-year old likes.

We can never say thanks enough for people's generosity!

We can never say thanks enough for people’s generosity!

When we were at Lavon, I told them that when they bless my daughter, they bless me.  I’m glad that so many people love Grace and want to do such amazing things for her.  We have such an amazing support system – both in giving and in prayer, and we can never say thanks enough for that!

Thu
2
Jan '14

Christmas in the Same Room

The way that our mission organization works, we are in America 1 out of every 5 years.  It’s not always ideal, but we’ve gotten used to it. Because it’s pretty expensive to fly from The Netherlands to America very often – especially for three people – we normally fly once in the four years away.  It’s expensive, but it’s worth it to see family.

In the year that we are here, we are very busy because of traveling and fundraising.  Because we do that on the weekend and Grace is in school, going to see my family doesn’t happen all that often.  So, we really cherish it when we can all be together.  Such was the case with Christmas.  Well, almost everyone was there.  It gets harder when the grandchildren get older and have jobs.  One of my nephews couldn’t be there.  nevertheless, it was wonderful being in the same room with everyone.  Let me explain how Christmas usually works for us:

Christmas morning: wake up and have homemade cinnamon rolls, open presents, chill out at home and finally, go have dinner with friends.

Some time in the Christmas holiday : Skype/Facetime with family.  We send presents to them, and they send some to us.  With today’s technology, we are able to watch each other open the gifts.  It’s not the same as being in the same room, but it’s the closest we can get.  For my family, they set up an iPad in the middle of the room on a table.  When it’s their turn to open a gift, they come to the middle of the room and face the iPad while they open it.  I joked that we should sit in the middle of the room and they should all bow before us to open their gifts.  For some reason, they didn’t agree.  When we are finished, we close our computer/iPad and go about our business.  We usually talk with a few people, but after an hour or so, we are finished with our family time.

Christmas with Mike's family last year

Christmas with Mike’s family last year – It’s good but not quite the same as really being with them.

For our year here with family, one of my greatest gifts was being in the same room with them.  It sounds strange, I’m sure, but in the same room, you can hug and kiss them.  You can have a conversation with one or more people and hear them without any internet delay or something/someone loud in the background drowning out what you are saying.  You can help cook the meals and help clean up.  You can play games and joke around.   What gifts we received!

Grace playing games with some of her cousins - one of the things you can only do in the same room.

Grace playing games with some of her cousins – one of the things you can only do in the same room.

When we talk about The Netherlands, we are often asked about the weather.  We say that it rains a lot, which it definitely does – especially compared to here.  When people look at us like it must be awful, we explain that it makes you appreciate the sun when it’s out so much more and you walk outside to be in the sunshine.  I view our family time – especially at Christmas – much the same way.  We get it once every five years, so I appreciate it so much more.  Family – what a gift indeed!

Sat
7
Dec '13

Snow Day (Ok, it’s really an ice day)

Not too long ago, someone asked Grace if she liked her American school or her Dutch school better.  At the beginning of the school year, she would’ve said her Dutch school because it’s familiar to her.  However, she’s adjusted and really likes her school and all her friends.  She quickly said, “My American school.”  When asked why, she had three reasons: her classes are easier, there’s not as much homework and they give out a lot of candy.

Friday gave her another reason to add to the list: snow days.  We found out Thursday night that there wouldn’t be any school on Friday. It’s really unfair to call it a snow day.  It didn’t snow.  We did get plenty of ice and freezing rain.  In The Netherlands, we would’ve gotten more snow, and we would’ve had school.  It just means that you plan more time to get where you’re going.  Instead of that, we stayed inside all day.  Grace loved it!  Of course, I keep telling her that it just means that they have to make up for the day later in the year.

Looking out our front door

Looking out our front door

I know that some people would laugh at canceling school due to the weather, but it’s actually really dangerous because of the thick layer of ice on the roads.  I’ve seen enough footage on tv of wrecks to make me now want to drive.

Behind our parking space

Behind our parking space – way too much ice for my taste!

Of course, even though we know that the roads are dangerous, and people are without electricity due to trees falling on power lines, we still laugh at things being said on Facebook and the news.  On last night’s newscast, there was a graphic – “31 hours below freezing!”  I looked at Mike and said, “I think last winter in Holland, we had over 31 days below freezing.”

We had services planned in Hooks and Tyler, TX this weekend.  We had to reschedule them because the driving would be too difficult, and some of the highways are closed.  They’ve salted them, but they froze again.  We saw on the news last night that people have been stuck on highways for over 10 hours without moving.  I’m thankful that the churches were so understanding about rescheduling.  I don’t enjoy being stuck in traffic, much less in the freezing without being able to get to food or bathrooms.

Icy steps leading to our apartment - tread carefully!

Icy steps leading to our apartment – tread carefully!

Even though I should be more conditioned to the cold, I’m still enjoying staying inside as much as I can, eating plenty of soup and drinking lots of hot tea.  I know that reality will come back, but until then, Happy Snow Days!

Sat
7
Dec '13

Sinterklaas in Texas

It’s that time of year: Thanksgiving is over, and we’re getting ready for Christmas.  For Americans, that seems pretty normal, but since we’ve lived in The Netherlands, Sinterklaas is also part of this time of the year.  Sinterklaas is Saint Nicholas, and he’s the one who brings presents to children in The Netherlands.  They do it on his birthday.  Well, his birthday is actually December 6, but they give him that day to head back to Spain.  They actually do the presents on pakjesavond (presents night), December 5.  If you’re reading this, and you’ve never heard of Sinterklaas, it might all sound strange to you, but it’s become a way of life for us.

We decided to have a small Sinterklaas party, but because of school and work here in the States, we thought that we’d do it on the Saint’s actual birthday. We invited Mike’s family and some missionary kids who grew up in The Netherlands.  (Unfortunately, they weren’t able to come because of bad weather.)  I had at first thought that we could do suprises, which is a gift you do for people, but most times, the actual gift is in the amazing wrapping.  Say that you like music; your suprise might be in the shape of a piano.  Your gift would be inside.  The person who gives it to you also writes a poem about you, and it often makes a little fun of you.  We decided that it might be a bit much to ask everyone (who has never done this) to come up with something.  So, Mike and I got something for Grace.  Mike took care of the packaging, making a unicorn out of it, and I wrote the poem.  This way, our family could somewhat see what it was like.

I thought that a great way to experience the entire Sinterklaas experience would be to have a Dutch meal.  Mike, Grace and I came up with the menu.  The first thing that Grace said was PANNENKOEK!  I didn’t want to have to be at the stove the entire time making pancakes, so we came up with some other Dutch goodies.  I first thought that erwtensoep would be perfect.  It’s one of the most “Dutch” things I could think of: split pea soup with other veggies in it.  Since I like vegetables a lot, it’s a winner in my book.  I had to search around for a while here to find celery root, but it made it into the pot too.  It’s not the most visually appealing soup, and the longer it sits, the thicker it becomes.  So, by the end of the night, I had a good erwtensoep by Dutch standards: my spoon would stand straight up inside it.

Erwtensoup/split pea soup

Erwtensoup/split pea soup

I knew that wouldn’t be enough to feed the bunch, so we also had patat (French fries – this was to help the kids out), chicken with peanut butter sauce and hotspot.  It’s mashed potatoes, carrots and union.  It’s eaten in Leiden on one of their holidays.

Hutspot

Hutspot

We finished our meal off with appeltaart and kruidnoten.  I don’t know how to describe kruidnoten to Americans except to say that they’re small, crunchy spice cookies.  We also had the chocolate covered variety.  Since I have very little restraint when it comes to those, I definitely wanted to serve them to everyone so that I would get them out of my house!  Our nephews were also really happy to see stroopwaffels.

Appeltaart

Appeltaart

Kruidnoten

Kruidnoten

So, even though the Sint didn’t actually make it to Texas, we had a little of his spirit around.  It was a great time showing our family in America a little of what life is like in The Netherlands.  One of my nephews said, “So, is it strange to make Dutch food here in America for us?”  I told him that it’s nice to show them Dutch food, and that when we’re in The Netherlands, the meal that people usually ask me to make to show them our food from America is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy.  Our house just happens to have the best of both worlds – no matter where we are.

Fri
11
Oct '13

The Time of Year I Love (in Texas)

Finally, it is here!  The temperatures have dropped just a bit, and I’m not complaining about the heat anymore.  We usually keep our thermostat much warmer than most people here in America: 78 F.  About 4 or 5 days ago, I decided that we could do without the air conditioning all together.  A few nights ago, it got a little cooler, and when Grace got up and looked at our thermostat because she was cold. “71?! Can’t you turn the heat on?”  I laughed and told her that most people in America keep their houses that cold or colder.  She’s going to love me in the winter when I refuse to make it very warm in the house as well.

I’ve heard from friends in The Netherlands that it’s gotten much colder, windier and rainy.  That’s a typical October day there – hence the addition of the parentheses in the title of my blog post.  I decided to have a look at how temperatures compare between the two places.  This cooler, pleasant day here in Texas is what would be considered a really warm/hot day if it was the middle of summer in The Netherlands.

Different Worlds

Different Worlds

Living in The Netherlands really taught me to appreciate having windows and doors open.  I love feeling a breeze and hearing the birds singing.  Of course, in Texas, we can smell freshly-cut grass, which we don’t really smell in The Netherlands.  In our back yard, there are plants around the perimeter, but we’ve never had grass.

 

Letting the fresh air inside

Letting the fresh air inside

I do wonder what anyone in the area thought while I was working out this morning though with the door open.  I’m sure they thought someone was dying inside our house.  I’m not sure how long this weather will last, but I plan on enjoying it as long as possible.