Saturday, July 14, 2018

Without Faith

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  Hebrews 11:6

I am reading the book "Fresh Faith" by Jim Cymbala for about the fourth or fifth time since my cousin gave it to me 14 years ago.  There are just some books I keep coming back to over and over and over.  This little book has been such an encouragement over the years.  Here is another one God slammed me with while reading this week, 

"Faith alone is the trigger that releases divine power." (page 41)

We are all on vacation this month.  Much awaited, much needed and a very-different-than-we-imagined vacation.  But God is good and we have had some special days together as a family.  Yesterday we took the children to SESC, our local sports/pool/exposition place, to play for a few hours.  You can also eat there for a very reasonable price so we enjoyed lunch together as well.  We parked the car on the street and headed towards the building.  As we walked over a piece of sidewalk that was all twisted, raised and broken under the tree, my children asked why the sidewalk was all broken and ugly.  

You know when words come out of your mouth that you are not sure where they come from, but suspect they come straight from the heart of God and is intended more for you than for those you are speaking to?  I explained that when roots don't go deep, they grow on the surface and make not only the sidewalk ugly and broken, but when a bad storm comes, sometimes the tree doesn't have the strength to withstand the wind and rain and falls over.  I then explained that it is the same way in our walk with God.  When we don't study the Word and Pray to Him, we don't go "deep" and when hard things come along we don't have the strength to withstand and we "fall."  We fall into depression, anger, illness, or any other number of things.  We need to go deep in our relationship with God.!  Okay, Lord.  Got it!  My very own words convicted me.  Deeply.  And my study of faith just parallels this.  Our faith must go deep or we will grow on the surface and create all kinds of ugliness, danger and destruction.

So, as we enjoy the last few crazy busy days of our vacation, I want to GO DEEP.  Burrow deeply in my relationship with my God.  Dig deeply into His Word.  Go deeply as I seek His face and will in prayer.

Here are a few things we have been up to since I last posted:

Saying goodbye to dear friends who moved out of town.
Morning at the Park with my kiddos

Making homemade esfihas with Daddy!

Many sunny mornings and afternoons at the playground in our condominium

July 9th Parade downtown Sao Paulo

It was a lovely warm day at Parque Ibirapuera

A super super special afternoon coffee time and evening worship service in the home of a family very dear to our hearts.  I lived with the Cordeiro Family for three months during one of my mission trips to SP and the husband grew up under their musical and spiritual teaching.  We had not seen them for many years and it was special to be with them again.

Monalise, myself, Monike, Lourdinha & Cordeiro

This family is incredibly musically talented and Chloe was super impressed!

Noah was very tired by the end of the evening but my children had such a wonderful time they did not want to leave!

"Come, let us worship and bow down!"

On Wednesday of this week, we packed up and went to the country to visit my brother in law and sister in law at their property.  They are building a lovely country home and we planned to spend several days with them, helping and enjoying space, green grass and trees.  However, we were slammed with incredibly COLD weather this week and we decided to come home after only one day there.  We were all very disappointed but I was glad to get home.  The 24-hours we spent with them were worth it, though.  How we love them and will miss them when they move to Mocambique the end of the year.

One has to keep one's eyes on these two at.all.times.  Here I found them nailing things to uncle's new porch pillars!

Preparing windows for glass installation

Sister, baby and I just get to cook and sit around talking to the guys while they work!  It's a wonderful life!

Yesterday at the SESC...

We have a few days left of our vacation and look forward to more time in the sun (the only warm place is out in the sun, literally!), some special afternoon tea times with friends and doing several needed things like dentist and pediatrician visits.

Have a blessed weekend you all and remember, dig deep and may your faith be strong!
HE IS GOD and He has got your back.  Whatever you are facing, whatever you are experiencing, He is looking out for your good, your benefit and your blessing.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Joy in the Strikes

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Today marks the 7th day of the nationwide trucking strike in Brazil.

A country that depends entirely on the trucking business.

While the strike is entirely understandable and probably necessary, (truckers work ridiculously long hours, often with little to no benefits, astronomical highway toll fees and the ever increasing cost of gasoline/alcohol/diesel) when they stop, the country stops.  As of Friday there was no longer gasoline or alcohol available to be bought at any price.  Facebook is full of jokes by Brazilians themselves that people are willing to trade their beach homes for five liters of gasoline for their car.  Many people I know haven't been able to use their cars for several days now.

On my way home from school Wednesday evening, I began seeing this at every.single.gas.station.I.passed and with a sinking heart knew something was up.

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Thursday morning, with every fiber of my being rebelling at the situation, I got in line.  I was super blessed to not wait more than 10 minutes and was even more blessed there was still gas to fill up my tank.  We are among the few.  As of today, Sunday, I am praying over the huge gas tanks that are lined up outside each building in our condominium, supplying us with the needed gas to use our stoves.  We have no idea how many more days they will last.  If that gas gives out, we will use our George Foreman grill and our microwave.

I went Friday afternoon to do our regular monthly shopping, having no idea what I would find: empty shelves, crazy long lines to get into the parking lot, into the store and through the cashier?  I found none of the above and just thanked God I was able to get almost all our normal purchases for the month.  Our small, local grocery store continues to be well stocked as of this morning when Everson went to buy fresh bread but we hear stories of many locked up stores in other cities and regions that have nothing left to sell.  The chatting in the park yesterday was by tomorrow if no agreements are arrived at, there will no longer be buses or school vans and teachers won't be able to get to school.  It is said that while many ambulances in the city sit quietly much of the time, the few that do circulate are out of gas.  I nearly cried when I saw an interview with a young woman who had to cancel her wedding this weekend because her guests could not get here.  Or the dialysis patients who are wondering if they will get their treatments this coming week.  So, far my father-in-law has been reassured he will get his treatments with no issue.  That hits home for us.

This is our life in Brazil today.  I am trying to find joy in the journey because actually striking is super common here.  Imagine when it is the garbage truck drivers. 

Photo courtesy of Google Images

The stench and filth of our megacity, which on a normal day can be overwhelming, becomes unbearable.  Or when the metro system shuts down.  Or the bus drivers decide to fight for their rights.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

People can't get to work.  People can't get to the hospital.  Life is already hard in our megacity in so many ways.  It is always the population, the normal, everyday citizen who just wants to get to work so he can pay his bills and the dedicated parent who just wants to buy bread for her children on the way home from work tonight, who suffers.  It breaks my heart to watch. 

Worse even when it the police force.  Oh, yes.  They do that on occasion as well.  All hell breaks loose.

This is our world.  Overrun with corruption.  Unrest.  Economic recession.  Unemployment on the rise.  Cost of living continuing to skyrocket with unmatched salary raises.  The Brazilian Real dropping steadily.  Every single month it costs me more to feed my family.  And we know we are among the most blessed.  We are both working.  We are not in debt.  Our house is paid for.  Our car is paid for.  We are so well off.

There are days, like today, that I hate it here.  My heart breaks for this people I love so deeply.  Our people.  My people.  But most days I love it.  Most days I am so grateful for the opportunity to be an ex-pat in a Latin American city.  It is never dull.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.  Today we hope and pray for the Brazilian "jeitinho," the notorious way Brazilians always, always, always come through at the very last, possible moment and it all works out just fine.

However, if it doesn't, I am at peace.  God is in control.  He loves this beautiful country and her people more than I do.  He loves my family more than I do.  We will be just fine.  I don't know how or when but it will all be okay.

"If you have time, listen to this beautiful song that says in Portuguese, "It has already all worked out!"  We need to put our faith into action because it will all be okay!

Have a blessed weekend.  The upside to our national crisis, is we are saving our gas for our work/school week and spending the weekend hibernating at home.!

                                                                 Joy in this crazy Journey,

Saturday, May 5, 2018

My God is So Good and So Kind

Not because I deserve it.  Not because He owes it (whatever IT is) to me.  But because of His goodness and kindness, He is Who He is and honestly, I just believe He delights in delighting His children's hearts.

And so because He knew what my heart needed and knew better than I the inner workings and struggles of my soul, He sent me someone special from "home" last week.  I say "home" because as I told her during one of our hours and hours of talking, the United States really doesn't feel like home anymore.  Too many years living abroad.  Too much water under the bridge, so to speak.  But it is where my family is, so in many ways, I think it will always have a flavor of home.

So, to my complete surprise and delight after an online conversation, she sent me an intinerary, asking if I would be home the last week in April to receive a visitor.  I chuckled and thought, "Where else would I be...really?!"  And YES, I will move heaven and earth to receive someone who wants to come see me.

So, here are a few highlights of our whirlwind seven days together.  I don't know if she will ever know what these hours meant to me or my little family.  I can only pray God's blessings over her as she poured blessing over us.

Afternoon Cafezinho with special friends

She even went to school with us two days.  On Thursday she was our guest speaker for American Literature and gave an amazing class on the Harlem Renaissance period and introduced my students and I to Countee Cullen's poems.

I asked a dear friend of mine to accompany the two of us to tour downtown SP, which quite frankly can be quite daunting to me...even after 10 years here!  We had a glorious time, walking for HOURS and seeing a small portion of our megacity.

A trip downtown is not really quite complete without a huge Mortadela sandwich, which even sharing with D I could hardly eat it all!

We finished up our downtown experience by meeting up with my husband for a quick tour of Avenida Paulista and Arab food for dinner.  If I look absolutely exhausted here, it is because I was but it was so worth it!

Saturday the children, M and I enjoyed a wonderful day in a little wine town in the interior of SP state.  Husband had to work which was so unfortunate, but with trusty little Waze and a fantastic navagator, we managed to find our way around.

This picture was actually later that night, but she really wanted corn ice cream so we did what we needed to do to find it for her!!!

The highlight of our day for the children was finding a wonderful little "Fazendadinha" to eat a delightful lunch at and enjoy the mini zoo and playground for a couple hours.

Seriously one of the most adorable little restaurants I have ever eaten in in Brazil.  Absolutely beautiful view out the windows and delightful red checkered tablecloths.  AND the food was fantastic.  Can't beat that!

Experiencing a Brazilian "feira"-farmers market is in our neighborhood on Sunday mornings.  Pastel and Caldo de Cano (sugarcane juice) about sums it up!
And Sunday night she flew back to her world and left our hearts feeling a bit sad and "wow, its over already?!"  My children had bouts of weeping for the next two days everytime we talked about M or remembered something we did together.  And yes, we did do more than just eat, even though the pictures might indicate otherwise!  It was short.  It was sweet.  We will never forget!

                                                                                       Until next time,