Monday, April 23, 2012

Signs of Spring! Mostly Picture Post

Beauty reflects the Creator.

Remember we're made in His image.

Get a whiff of that goodness!

Fun with family - love my sister-in-law, Carrie!

Easter at Great Grandparents House in NJ.

The Matriarch - Grammy Brollier

A Happy Hunter.

Love the Cheese! (And who says you need professional portraits?)

Proof I was at Easter dinner.

So, one year for Easter we made resurrection rolls (you can google them for the recipe) to illustrate how the Son of God was resurrected from death to life. The kids loved this object lesson of hiding a marshmallow tucked in a crescent roll. When it's baked it's gone! Just like an empty tomb. Although, our kids liked the lesson a bit too much, and since we don't do sweets often the kids kept asking when we were going to bury "baby" Jesus (my now 4 year old always thinks of Jesus as a baby). They just wanted the treat, but I'm sure they will never forget the lesson. Well, this year we, of course, talked about the real meaning, but also had an Easter Egg Hunt - no object lesson this time! There's something innocent about gathering candy-filled eggs in a basket and looking forward to opening them. I wish every chapter of life were like this. The excitement of the hunt and the prize. The joy of ownership and the savoring the prize hidden inside. Mmm.  Maybe more of life should be like this. Maybe it is all about perspective. We, as believers, are earthen vessels who contain the mystery of Christ. Easter eggs - Not a perfect analogy, but it's just some points to ponder along with the pics.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Change & Coping

I feel like a different me than when I set out a year ago.

The New me. The good with the bad and getting through big things.
What have I accomplished?
I've lived in another culture for a year.
I've learned a language.
I've helped my kids navigate public school relationships in another language and culture.
I've worshiped our Father in another language and shared about Him too.
I've traveled entirely too much.
I've dealt with chronic back pain and fatigue.
I've grieved lost time with my dad, knowing he might die of cancer.
I've dealt with stress.
I've had my ups and my downs.
I've become much more introverted - weird. (Those of you who knew me before might not believe this possible, but I've realized the benefit and the joy that comes from holding my tongue! It's so energizing to not be the center of attention now.)
I've become more appreciative. Really.
I've changed - too much to note each detail, but it's there, and I can feel it and maybe you can see it too - or maybe you can't.

Everyone asks how my trip was - unless they understand it was not a trip but my life for a year. (It's ok, really. I like sharing. I get it.)

I came home from France and waded through my thoughts and emotions of transitioning from my home culture of a year to my changed home culture in the States.

Life in the great USA is still great, but it is different.
I can't explain to you why, but I'll try.:
Maybe it's the busy that people hold as more important than time with family and friends.
Maybe it's that people are willing to check out from society by putting in their ear buds.

Maybe it's the technology. Everyone checking their $200 phones (or in my case a borrowed flip-phone - I have to adapt to culture even a bit, don't I? or my borrowed iTouch.)

Side Note:
I had to laugh at the fact that when I was visiting my family we were all playing a game against each other on our devices while we were in the same room! We were playing games just like we used to only this time it was without pencil and paper and it was called  "Draw Something" instead of Pictionary. (I thought this was fine since we had all thoroughly connected verbally for days as we visited Dad in Hospice and consoled each other - so we got our "Face Time" in *wink*).

Life here in the US is just faster, and I am amazed at how much we eat here in such little time.
In France, we ate well, but it was over many hours - not a marathon Thanksgiving stuff your face kind of meal, but a little of this and a lot of conversation. (Don't get me wrong - I love Thanksgiving!)
Here we also would grab a meal on the run and eat it in the car - why?? It's so much messier that way and a lot less enjoyable.
I miss walking and biking everywhere in France. Do people do that here? I find things are way too far away to make that work well. How dependent we are on fuel.

Anyway, life is different for me since my experiences have increased.  
Life is different for me now that my dad is gone. (I'm so thankful we were able to be with him before he passed away).

I've dealt with just a little bit of what my mom went through as my father's caregiver. I was able to help out for a few days as his sole caregiver while she was working, and I did not envy my mom's job of his full-time caregiver. For those of you out there who deal with that on a daily basis. I understand you. You are not alone. I felt so alone and lost trying to do what was best for dad in my human strength. When we're tired and worn, we sometimes forget to look to the One who cares for us.
1Peter 5:7 : Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 
I know I forgot to do that at times. If you are trying to cope with giving your all for your loved one, I encourage you to find someone to talk and cry with (Thanks Brent!). A friend, a caregivers' support group, a church cell group.  It helps. 
It's hard to see your loved one fail. To see their health decline and their mind go - to see time shift and slip from their reach while your life keeps blurring by. (I encourage you to look into respite care at a Hospice house if your loved one has a terminal disease and  care-giving gets to be too much.) It doesn't make you love them any less if you get help. 

I had to get creative with how I processed all that was going on
I needed to be alone a lot more.
I needed quiet. 
I needed to veg out in front of the TV so that I wouldn't dwell on it and hyperventilate. (I have had panic attacks over the past year - gee I wonder why!) My dad's life was slipping away - his skin could not keep his soul in his body any longer. 
I needed to cry. I still do.
I needed to draw again. 
Oddly enough I did not want to be with friends or talk on the phone about it. I was avoiding processing that part with anyone other than my family members (it was just to much to explain over and over.)
I needed to be with my kids sometimes and pour into them to fill the lack that I know the years ahead will hold. They are grieving too.

It's weird to think that I fit into a category now: 
I'm 32 and I no longer have a dad. My mom is a widow. 
When does this sort of thing happen? 
You never see it coming even when you have a year and a half to prepare after prognosis. 

Deut. 10:17-18 : 17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  

It's nice to know we will be taken care of.
I'm getting to the place where I understand the beauty of a life after this one.  Life everlasting is the HOPE that I can cling to when life on this earth gets me down. I'm so thankful that it is available to me and to you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (From John 3:16-17)

This Easter, I received a little gift from our Father.
I had a vision while I was wide awake. In my mind's eye I could see my dad. 

In this vision, he looked like himself but had the disposition of a little child. He was standing next to Jesus and he asked, "Hey, do those holes in your hands and feet still hurt?" Jesus told him, "Not anymore. They are scars of joy now." Then he hugged my dad and my dad grinned the most contented grin I have never seen him have in his entire life (and my dad laughed a lot!). What a treasure that I will always cherish: to know that there is joy and release from pain and sorrow waiting for those of us who trust in Him when we walk from life into eternity. 

This is how I cope.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ode to Dad

For my dad's memorial service, they asked if we would say something. I blubbered through this and managed to say goodbye to my father in the only way I knew how: with a sad but thankful heart. 

Reflections on my Dad   By: Laura (Fritsche) Brollier

My dad was there when I came into this world. 

I’ve known him all my life.

We’ve been great friends and stayed friends even through my stubborn teenage years. 

How can I say goodbye to someone so close?

He taught me how to walk, how to fall and pick myself back up again.

I could talk to my dad about anything. I’ll miss our weekly phone calls.

He taught me to dance, to write, to create. 

My dad and I used to paint together, write stories together, and laugh together.

My fondest memories with my dad are from times when we’d be cruising down the highway singing to the top of our lungs to some oldies song & then he’d tell jokes until both of our smiles were so wide from laughing that our cheeks would hurt. 

He worked so hard for our family and always taught us to respect our mother. He set a great example for us in marriage. 

My dad taught me how to cook when my mom worked night shift at the hospital. I didn’t appreciate learning that then, but I do now. Thanks, dad. 

I loved when my dad would pick me up from college and we’d get to drive “the scenic route” because I took a wrong turn. We’d picnic at state parks and just enjoy the beauty of nature. 

My dad taught me basic car care. Every time I check the oil, I think of him. 

My dad taught me how to use power tools. He gave me the courage to learn how to do anything & not to be scared to try typical “guy jobs” just because I am a girl. I loved working out in the garage with my dad building things with wood, using a soldering iron, painting with wax. 

My dad took me on my first date - just me and him. He taught me how a guy was supposed to treat me and told me not to settle for less. Thanks, dad. I found a good guy because of you. 

My dad taught me to reach for the sky in whatever I do. He believed in me. He thought I was smart enough and creative enough to do anything. 

Everywhere I look in my family, I can see dad:
I see him in my mom. He taught her gumption and know-how & taught her to laugh at the little things.
I see him in my brother, Eric. His humor. His passion to protect those he loves. His love for the Dallas, Cowboys.
I see him in my sister, Katie. His desire for knowledge – the eternal student. His ability to stand up for what is right.
I see him in my sister, Amy. His optimism & flair for fun. His hands-on way of helping others. If you ever needed someone or something- my dad was there. This lives on in Amy.
I see him in my kids. My son has his love for sports and that crazy Fritsche-boy energy that my dad had when he was younger. My daughter has his love for art and that red hair that we both got from his red beard (when he would grow it out). 

I see dad in me. 

I’ve always said that I am an amazing blend of my mom and dad. I know what comes from her and what I get from him. My dad always told me that of all his kids, I am the most like his mother. We both got a dose of grandma's strength and creativity, and tenderness & zest for life. It’s so amazing to me that dad and grandma, though they are both gone from this earth, get to live on in us. 

I know my dad is in heaven with Jesus. My dad loves God and wants everyone to know about God’s love for us. Dad led his dad to the Lord before grandpa passed in ’93. In my dad’s last few weeks he lead two people to the Lord. It was his passion to serve God as best he knew how. Now he’s seeing God face to face, loving Him and eternally living with Him. 

Say hi to grandpa and grandma for us, Dad. I will always remember you and you will be sorely missed until we join you and Jesus up there. I’ll try to do like you taught me and I’ll tell your stories to my kids. You were an amazing dad and friend. Thanks for everything, Dad. Know that I love you! 

Here's the link to his obituary: 

Picture Post - Back in the States 2012

Claire's 4th birthday party with family

Last pic of just me and my Dad

The amazing LOVE of my life who watched the kids so much while we were at Hospice with Dad.

My precious kiddos whom I appreciate a lot more now.

Ethan striking a pose in Florida.

Claire climbs trees in February in 89F degree weather!

Celebrating sister Katie's b-day 2012. Wearing a button with a pic of us as kids.

Florida time = Family Time

We had a great time catching up with family in Florida during February and March. We hadn't seen family in over a year & it was fun  to be with them and it was hard to say goodbye this time. We shared with church friends, but we really were in Florida to be with family.

So time with family...We got to celebrate Claire's b-day and my sister Katie's too. We did not get to celebrate my dad's though - he would have turned 63, but he got to celebrate his birthday in heaven. My dad finished his battle with cancer on March 3rd, 2012. I started this blog with an entry about my dad and how he still wanted us to go to France for the year even though he knew he was dying. We got to see him and be together for his last few days. He was waiting for me to come home before letting go of this life. It was a bitter sweet time that we all knew was around the corner.

Have you ever waited around for something you dread?
I was dreading for a year that I would get that call or an email saying I needed to come home. Dreading made me sick with worry and anxious about traveling. It was like a horrible doorway that I never wanted to walk through looming out in front of me, nearing ever closer.

Thankfully, Dad lasted and we made it back to the States and got to have time together. The Lord really worked it out well and blessed us. He even set it up that we would have a beautiful home with a fenced in backyard during this time. His timing is perfect. Imagine if I had to return to the States jet-lagged with little ones only to attend a funeral and turn around to head back overseas for language school again! So thankful that we had 2 months in Florida at the end of our French schooling. Time with family. Time with Dad. Time to help Mom clear out some things and Time to cope.

"For every season there is a time and a purpose under heaven." Popular song lyrics from the 60's taken straight from Ecclesiastes 3:

Ecclesiastes 3 (compliments of

 1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Jan. 2012 Departure & Re-entry.

As promised... here is the story of our departure from France and our re-entry into live in the States as we used to know it a year ago. Enjoy!

OK, so after a year in France, we packed up our apartment. We knew this day might come.

I had a mondo sized checklist for keeping things straight.

We got rid of almost everything (except 11 bags that we brought with us - 11 sounds like a lot except when it's a years worth of stuff or all you own). It was a whirlwind sort of experience trying to empty an apartment that had been passed on from student family to student family (at least 4 that we've been told of). Imagine trying to close out internet accounts in another language when you are not the name on the account - the original person had just passed it on from one resident to the next to make payment easier. Hmmph! It was easier to pay but harder to close the account. It's still open, btw. We're far across the pond & the internet service provider told us to just close our bank account instead. OK?? It worked. It's done. Check. (Did you know you have to save French check stubs for 10 years for tax purposes?)

Another thing on the to-do list... AT. THE. SAME. TIME....We also were ordering supplies online in France to set up house in Africa and get them shipped to the container (in the Mid-West of the USA) so they could be shipped to West Africa. *sigh*
I'd like to get a button to push that speaks to me in that computer generated voice: "That WASN'T easy!" You know, similar to the one that STAPLES puts out that calmly tells you "That was easy." I don't need my button to yell or even strain it's voice. It just needs to calmly state: "That wasn't easy." and then I can move on. So yes, we packed for Africa across the continents. It's done-ish. *wink* Check. And just so you know, if you plan to make a lot of purchases online from another country on Black Friday, the credit card sompanies will put a hold on your account!

Oh, and another thing we did all at the same time as these other busy checklist items were being tended to, was to start scheduling speaking engagements and lodging and vehicle borrowing for our future (now current) time in the States.

For a while my conversations with Brent would go something like this:

Have a place to stay for the first few weeks in TX?
Do you know where it is?
OK. Fine.
Have a place for the next month in FL?
Know where that one is?
How about the month of March?
No. Not set up yet. No idea what we're going to do in NY. 
Hmm. OK.

So none-the-less, our check list for departure from France was ticked off with these three main events getting checked off simultaneously:

1. Empty Apartment.
2. Pack for Africa.
3. Schedule for Stateside.

It really helped us learn to plan and organize things down to the tiniest detail. Not my forté, but I learned how to do it better than I ever had before.
Thank the Lord!

So then we had a great trip planned to get us back to the States: We'd leave our apt and stay with French friends for 2-3 days and then take a bus to Lyon, stay the night in a hotel, shuttle in the morning to the airport and just have one layover in London before arriving in Texas. Doesn't sound as stressful as our trip that brought us to France a year ago, does it?

Well, all went well except...
I started with some stomach bug while staying at our French friends' house. Not a gross kind, just a painful kind that won't let you sleep well. Not too bad. Then Ethan got it. He only puked once. Then we got to the hotel with no problem. I couldn't sleep. Since moving to France was rough on me, I've struggled with travel anxiety a bit. Only slept 2 hours before we got up at 4am to get to the airport. Flew to London fine. Started feeling weak in the airport. Got that really twirly feeling. Thought I'd pass out. Made sure to get my low-blood sugar back to normal by eating something. Still had to have Brent take me to the plane in a wheelchair. It was embarrassing. I'm an otherwise healthy woman who gets bouts of low-blood sugar, but this time I was worn down from a stomach bug and exhaustion. The flight was great. I was comfortably settled in and Brent had taken care of the kids, and bags and everything! Then he sat with the kids while I had my own seat by the bulk-head (leg room! for the tall sickie).

Can I just say here, Don't I have a great guy?!? Wow. Way to step it up, honey. Thank- you.

Claire threw up in the airplane bathroom. Then she slept the rest of the flight. Ethan & Brent watched movies and tried to sleep. (Brent got the stomach bug a few days after we got back to TX. Thought I'd have to preach for him that Sunday, but he was ok.)

Back to the plane. I normally get motion sick, but because of my stomach thing I was taking meds for my tummy and couldn't take dramamine. So the ride got bumpy at the end and I felt nauseous - didn't toss my cookies though - Score! Then because of the wind, our double-decker big plane slammed down. EEK! Everyone thought we had crashed. We were fine. Well. most of us. We were the last ones off the plane since I felt like I was going to pass out and vomit all at once. EMT people came to take care of me while the kids checked out the cockpit (since it's a bit scarey for the kids to see mommy in an oxygen mask). I was able to walk off the plane with help and then I got wheeled around the massive 100+ person line for customs (my family got to join me!). Thank you, Lord! Only to get stuck in the line for agriculture since we had to declare a French orange, of all things. Thankfully this line was only 5 people long since they scanned all our bags again. Then we had lovely PBT people waiting for us to pick us up. He didn't even ask why I was in a wheelchair. We told him, but it was nice not to be asked. Then we ate some dinner at the house here and went to bed by 7pm (2am France time- I think.) It really takes 24 hours for each time zone you've crossed to get adjusted and not have jet lag any more. I really think it's like working night shift, you can change your schedule but in the end you feel like years have been sucked off your life. Jet-lag stinks! But we survived that too. Our heavenly Father was really with us through it all.

Then the good part began. Getting to see friends we haven't seen in a year. Having to use a calendar to book times with people because so many wanted to see us, meet with us. Not to mention physicals and dental appointments too. Busy time! Note to self: Next time plan more time in the Texas area. Three weeks is not enough!

Oh, now for my favorite part of re-entry:
We got to go to church in ENGLISH for the first time in a year- yay!  We had the opportunity to share with churches about our time in France.

Here are some highlights we shared:

- Shared the "good news" with a friend from India. Told about our Father's power of healing and being led by dreams. My friend wants to get a copy of "The Good Book."
- Gave a Chinese copy of "The Good Book" to a follower so he could read in his own language. (He only had a few pages before).
- Shared with an Austrian atheist lady why "The Good Book" is alive & important to me.
- Talked to the Father about a French sister being plagued by nightmares for 2 years. She was delivered!
- Taught a French Sunday class of 7-11 year olds  about work on the field & fed them an African dish.

We were so blessed this past year & it was a blessing to share that with so many people in Texas. It's a little odd to be back to American ways and speaking in English. It feels good. It feels sad. We miss our friends and life in France. It wasn't a vacation. It was work and everyday life. It was good. We're so thankful for those who made it possible. Now just to raise funds for a vehicle so we can work in West Africa. In the mean time I'll be telling stories about what He's done & catching up on all the bowls of Cheerios with good milk & all the Mexican food we've missed.

Next stop: Florida for a month. Going to see family! Yay! Hang out with my dad who's fighting cancer (see first blog entries) and share at churches.  Not a bad re-entry. Weird and parts of it I would not like to repeat. All in all not bad.

Catching up - an explanation

I have not blogged since we left France.

It's time to begin the life journal once again. Plan to update you chronologically. :) Thanks for lending and ear - or in this case your eyes. *wink*

We just spent a year in France for language learning so that we can move to West Africa where French is the official language. This blog continues our family's journey as we follow the call to great adventures in trusting our Heavenly Father (because seriously, who would go to live in Africa with no running water or electricity without a higher calling drawing them there! *tongue in cheek*).

We're going to love it, even if I have to be convinced over and over again.

I've only been headed this direction since I was fourteen, and I'd say I have experienced every emotion regarding this route that one could have when entrusting my life and the lives of my family to the One who made us all.

 Lord, I love following you and I'll go where you want me to go, but please help me love it!

Mark 9: Help my unbelief!

So happy reading! You'll be getting a bunch of updates all at once... read on. Hope you enjoy!
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