Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apartment, Before and After

So here is the "Before" video blog from Caid:

And here is the "After" video blog from Caid:
For those who enjoy pictures, here are the before and afters that I have:
This is the "after" entryway (no before pics)
These are "Before" living room
"After" living room
"Before" bathroom
"After" bathroom
"Before" kitchen
"After" kitchen
"Before" laundry room
"After" laundry room
"Before" workroom
"After" workroom (still more work to do...)
"Before" bedroom
"After" bedroom
"Before" baby room
"After" baby room

All this to say THANK YOU to so many of you who have helped us settle in (Turners, Moraes, Soares), and to so many of you who gave financially to help make this transition happen--we are so happy to call this apartment home!

Hopefully now I can stop nesting...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jeito Brasileiro

Little by little I am cleaning out the storage room at Cajueiro Claro. After the first 3 hours, Mercia (Pastor Flavio's wife) said "Oh, do look out for the rats." This was not as unnerving as during the second 3 hours, one of the mothers poked her head in the room and said, "Be careful of the scorpions!"

We have definitely found my strengths and Caid's strengths, and so he helps Flavio sing and dance and do sports with the kids while I organize things with some of the older girls. I was so proud of him yesterday as Flavio had to leave early and handed Caid some coloring papers and said goodbye. His face only betrayed mild panic for a couple seconds before he took over nine lil kids (and I kept organizing). I am continually impressed with Caid's ability to adapt and jump into things--it took me A LONG TIME (weeks, months...) to do many of the things he is already doing.

Speaking of Caid, please do pray for him. We think he had some mild heatstroke earlier this week--he kept saying he was cold while his skin felt very hot. He was weak and dizzy, so we took things easy (luckily, Tuesday was a holiday), and he has had heat rash since Wednesday. He is drinking lots of water, taking cold showers, and staying out of the sun (ish) and feeling better now. Funny, the Jamaican is having issues with the heat while the pregnant lady is fine.

I don't know how much you know (here is one article about the most recent big scandal) about politics in Brazil, but Caid and I are learning a little bit more. In 1999 I first came to Brazil, and the dollar was 1 to 3. I felt rich with my $100USD spending money turned into $300Reis. It is back to being 1 to 3--but now I feel almost ashamed of my happiness--what makes things nice for our budget is costing all of my friends daily.

Karine (Tele's daughter) put it well, "Tira Dentes (the Brazilian holiday last Tuesday) was about revolting against the government taking one-fifth from the people--and the ironic thing is that today, the government is taking two-fifths!" People are seeing 8% inflation. Caid incredulously turned to her and asked, "How do you manage it--living here?"

"If there is a way of doing something in Brazil," Karine continued, "It becomes impossible. But something is impossible, we somehow find a way--'Jeito Brasileiro'--the Brazilian way." So for example--if there is a prescribed way to get something (like a Visa), it becomes difficult/impossible because of all the bureaucracy. But if it is something impossible, and no one knows how to do it, Brazilians are incredibly resourceful and normally manage it somehow:).
(A picture Caid took, walking around #nofilter)

All that to say that the politics and scandal and inflation and day-to-day struggles are getting worse for the people here (Northeast Brazil)--more than I have ever seen it before. The educational system is in shambles. In the past couple of years the government has wanted statistics to look better (previous statistics put public school graduation rates in rural areas around 28%). The main reason kids didn't graduate was because they didn't pass grades and would finally drop out after being embarrassingly old and still in 3rd or 4th grade.

Instead of improving teaching and funding and making sure schools were not overcrowded, they simply passed a law that teachers HAVE to pass 95% of their class each year. My friend, who is a 10th grade teacher, has 40-50 students in each class, many of whom cannot read--but they know he has to pass most of them--so most are on their cell phones or talking through class.

Please pray for Brazil, for the government, for the people. We have been received with open arms and so much love. Next week Caid (and I) start teaching English at the public school in Mussurepe and Living Stones Cajueiro Claro. Caid starts teaching choir at the International school (last week was auditions), and I start a new Bible study with the "girls" (Brazil support team women). I think I finally put up the last shelf on the wall, and the apartment is feeling like home. We are so grateful!
(Caid's vlog--great times with great people)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Brazilian Baby Doctor

April 14th was our first trip to the doctor. His normal hours start at 8am, so we were told to come at 7am to meet him and get set up, since I am so far along in my pregnancy. So 5:30am we pick up Lindsay, who knows this doctor, and knows how to get there.
Caid's main concern is getting me there. And luckily, it is not too difficult. Without traffic (well, much traffic), it is about 50 minutes. It is a straight shot with one turn at a big building that says "BIG CAR" on it. There is also a Subway (they are taking over the world), Habibs (Brazilian fast food), and Bob's Burgers (Brazilian burger place) around the corner. These are the important things for Caid to know (and keep himself fed).
I am still working on reality setting in. Goodness--I am still working on "I am having a baby" reality to sink in. I still wake up at times with a jolt, thinking, "WHAT IS TRYING TO GET OUT OF MY STOMACH!" Then there is the "I am having a baby in Brazil" reality. Then there is the "I am having a baby in Brazil without my family and in Portuguese" reality.
So we drive up to the building and it is like "So this is where I am having my baby. We wait and meet the receptionist and it is "So this is who I pay when we are having a baby." We meet Dr. Renato Grandi and it is "So this is the doctor who will help me have my baby."
All of my US paperwork and tests were put into Brazilian form and the doctor checked me over. The sweetest part was when he was measuring my tummy and listening to the heartbeat--he got such a look of love on his face--you could tell that he just really loves babies. He gave us his personal phone number and then went over the costs, which are an interesting Brazilian concoction.
Everything went well, and the doctor said the baby looks great, but as I went to the restroom (again), I had a mini-panic. It is just so different. It is a nice hospital--everything I need. They are nice people--and well trained-but it isn't the same. It isn't the USA. It is just different. So is talking to the doctor in Portuguese. And it just tugs at me sometimes, asking "Why? Why are you doing things differently?" Most of the time, I have an answer. And I believe that answer firmly. But sometimes I forget and question everything--Why am I doing things differently?
The question I really want to ask is why am I so programmed to go along with the program--why is it the default, and everything else to be questioned?
(This is my questioning face--and my new haircut)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I posted part of my favorite quotes from the book "Scary Close" here if you'd like to read them too. Here are the parts about marriage and parenting that hit me hard:

“Love is not a game any of us can win, it’s just a story we can live and enjoy."

“The struggle in my relationship with Betsy (now his wife) was all about sharing agency. Was I willing to go into this thing having no idea what the finished product would look like? Could I give up my dream to merge it with hers and settle and perhaps be surprised by what could happen in a shared life?”
“Since I first discovered how remarkable Betsy was I’ve felt a certain responsibility. I no longer believe God is working behind to the scenes to make me powerful, rich, or famous. Instead, I think I’m supposed to contribute something to the people around me and create an environment where healthy relationships can flourish.”
“I’d say the thing that caused me to truly fall in love with Betsy was quite practical: I realized there wasn’t another girl on the planet with whom I was more compatible to have a healthy relationship, and if there was another girl, I never wanted to meet her.”
“In my opinion the misappropriation of the longing for God has caused a lot of people a great deal of pain. How many relationships have been ruined by two people attempting to squeeze Jesus out of each other? At our rehearsal dinner I shared “Betsy and I are going to try as hard as we can not to put the burden of that longing (for God, for heaven…) on each other,” I said. “Instead, we will comfort eah other in the longing and even love it for what it is, a promise that God will someday fulfill us.” I don’t know if there’s a healthier way for two people to stay in love than to stop using each other to resolve their unfulfilled longing and, instead, start holding each other closely as they experience them. I don’t mind the longing. The longing is beautiful. I just don’t want to feel it alone anymore. I want to share it with Betsy.”

“Relationships matter. And not all relationships help us reach our goals. God doesn’t give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused the languages at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption.”
 “My friend Marshall said before they had twins he thought of himself as a provider and protector, as somebody who was responsible to protect the physical world around the people he loved. But after having kids he realized that was 10 percent of the battle. What he really had to protect was the twins’ identity. He said there was a primal thing in him that wanted to stand between his children and the world and fight back all the lies.”
 “I’m noticing a common characteristic of healthy families: kids with parents who are honest about their shortcomings seem to do better in life. it’s as though vulnerability and openness act as the soil that fosters security. Sadly, I’ve noticed the opposite is true too: parents who don’t admit their faults have children who are troubled and emotionally restless as though they secretly want to be free from their families so they can be themselves.”
Dr.Duke from Emory University went looking for common themes in healthy families. His wife noticed: “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” The article went on to explain that “The more children knew about their family history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.” In fact, the  “How much do you know about your family?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. Dr.Duke went on to explain, however, it wasn’t just honest about a family’s troubled narrative that fueled a child’s health. It was actually what he called the oscillating family narrative that is the true story about how the family both succeeds and fails and yet stays together regardless."

Sunday Morning

There is something special about Sunday mornings in Brazil. Church (mostly) meets in the evening, so in the morning most all the stores are closed and things are quiet. And God and I have a history of making this time something special. Praying. Reading His Words. Listening. Writing. And so, the tradition continues--and is enhanced--as I am back in Brazil, now with an amazing husband (who has added the tradition of Sunday chicken for lunch...come to Brazil to taste the goodness:)).

I finished reading "Scary Close" by Donald Miller, and have some quotes for you. I am splitting them into two blog posts, since mostly people don't want to read the whole 3 pages I typed out.

“Here’s a thought that haunts me: what if we are designed as sensitive antennas, receptors to receive love, a longing we often mistake as a need to be impressive? What if some of the most successful people in the world got that way because their success was fueled by a misappropriated need for love? What if the people we consider to be great are actually the most broken? And what if the whole time they’re seeking applause they are missing out on true intimacy because they’ve never learned how to receive it?”
“Love is not a game any of us can win, it’s just a story we can live and enjoy. It’s a noble ambition, then, to add a chapter to the story of love, and to make our chapter a good one. We don’t think much about how our love stories will affect the world, but they do. Children learn what’s worth living and dying for by the stories they watch us live. I want to teach our children how to get scary close, and more, how to be brave. I want to teach them that love is worth what it costs.”
“I like what Viktor Frankl wrote, about how we aren’t designed to spend too much time thinking about ourselves, that we are healthier when we’re distracted by a noble cause. Frankl went on to say it wasn’t pleasure mankind was looking for, that men only sought pleasure when they couldn’t find meaning. If a man has no sense of meaning, Frankl argued, he will numb himself with pleasure. He had three recommendations:
1. Have a project to work on, some reason to get out of bed in the morning and preferably something that serves other people.
2. Have a redemptive perspective on life’s challenges. That is, when something difficult happens, recognize the ways that difficulty also serves you.
3. Share your life with a person or people who love you unconditionally.”

“In the next five years we will become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with. The article I read went to far as to say relationships were a greater predictor of who we will become than exercise, diet, or media consumption. If you want to make a sad person happy, start by planting them in a community of optimists. My friend John Cotton Richmond once said to me that 90 percent of people’s problems could be prevented if they’d choose healthier people to give their hearts to.”
“It’s a beautiful moment when somebody wakes up and realizes that God created them so other people could enjoy them, not just endure them. I’d say one of the reasons Betsy is good at relationships is, for the most part, she truly believes she’s good for people.”

I hope you write more of your love chapter today:).Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Seven Months Pregnant

It is a couple of days early, but this is when I am sitting down and blogging, so this is when I post.
It has been a busy, changing month, with packing and getting ready to go to Brazil. I've never had so much time to get ready, so by the time it came, I was VERY ready. You can read about our preparation here. It was really a guessing game, deciding what Caid, baby, and I would need for the next six months to a year (we don't know how long it will take for all of our Brazil/having baby documents to go through, and are not leaving until they do). There were so many special memories with special people the last few weeks at home--THANK YOU. 

I find it amusing that Ana Sofia has already flown to Brazil twice before she is born (we found out I was pregnant the day we left for a short-term mission trip to Brazil). This last trip she was pretty active the first take-off, but calmed down after that. I can’t figure out if her movement is a sign of excitement or annoyance—she often stops if you hold my belly, which makes me think she is thinking “Oh no, they noticed—gotta lay low for a bit.” 

It is much easier for me to imagine her as a sea otter than a human being (probably because the mental image I have is of a little Barbie doll human) in my stomach as she moves/SWIMS around in there. Lately, I’ve been imagining what she is thinking in there. Sometimes, when snuggled up to Caid, I just know she is saying “Hey—that is my space!” as she kicks him. When I feel the steady bumps, she is thinking “Darn hiccups!” and sometimes, she simply wants OUT—that is all I can figure. That, and somersaults. She almost kicked my belly button into an outtie yesterday. 

Being in Brazil has been great. Everyone has been so kind. You can read about/see Caid's vlog about arriving/apartment here, and jumping back into ministry/Easter celebrations and vlog here. Pregnancy-wise, I haven't had heartburn since arriving, proving Ana Sofia has good taste in food. I also started the "feet bloating" thing since being here--whaaaaa? weird. Lindsay has been amazing and is going to show us around/introduce us at our first Brazil baby doctor appointment next week. Oh, and it was amazing to spend some time with friends at the beach. We are so blessed. 
And yes, everyone rubs/kisses/touches my belly here. Even the stranger next to me on the Kombi. 

Our Own Apartment

It is nostalgic and interesting to be sitting on this bed, reading this Bible, in this apartment, in this country this morning. Because it is all the same as it was for so many years past—with one big difference: I got up this morning and made my husband breakfast and sent him off to go get the car (we are borrowing) fixed. But now it is quiet and oh so past familiar…Even the Oswald Chamber’s devotional has notes I made in the past, in this very place, as I sought the Lord.
The measure of our service for God is not our usefulness to others. We have nothing to do with the estimate of others, nor with success in service; we have to see that we fulfill our ministry.” –Oswald Chambers
It is such an interesting mingling of old and new, as we walk through the town and I show Caid how to get money out of the bank and put minutes on our phones at the pharmacy. There are so many kindnesses—Jeff at the airport, Lindsay and Susan getting us food and all important toilet paper to make our apartment ready, the International school workers freshly painting the apartment walls and cleaning. Going to the school and having the smiles and hugs and surprised faces of my big belly (for everyone who has not read Facebook). The “one hand around my neck for a hug and the other rubbing my belly” greeting…
There are so many firsts: Caid and I having our own apartment, cooking dinner for him and waiting for him to shower after Glory Sports so we can eat together. Buying random household things—there are always needed household things! Unpacking while he explains/installs “Whatsapp” because apparently, that is what everyone uses here.

Here is Caid's vlog of our first days here:
Last night I smelled something burning (turned out to be the neighbor), but couldn’t sleep until I had searched the apartment and made sure everything was fine. I’ve never done that before. Makes me feel so grown up.

I’ve become THAT person. I always made fun of the people who would wait around for a ride in Brazil. I was independent—If I wanted something done, I would do it. For the most part, I did. For ten years. Then I got married and lived in the USA for a year and a half and got pregnant. And now I am back. I never remembered my small, daily plans changing THIS much. How quickly I forgot that all plans made in Brazil are flexible all the time. That it is a lifestyle. 

We waited for the bus yesterday morning and it was full (this happens often). I sucked in my belly to try to squeeze past two people in the aisle—thankfully, someone gave me their seat (take what being preggers gives you!), but it was hot and horrible no matter what. I am so grateful we are able to use a vehicle. In two seconds, I have forgotten my guilt of the luxury of it—for truly, being pregnant in Brazil is completely different from being not pregnant in Brazil. 

Back in Brazil

We arrived last week. This morning we were back in Cajueiro Claro, feet covered in dust and hands covered in paint as we found, washed, and painted 220 rocks for our Easter party on Friday. The kids were the kids—so completely themselves it always amazes me. I can leave, I can change, but when I come back it is always the same—a part of me is theirs.
I wiggled my belly and said, “Look at my cheeks!” instead of “Look at my belly” and they erupted in giggles (in my defense, in Portuguese it is very similar). Shyness is gone and we move on to work and fun and of course soccer. Caid’s feet will soon be “broken in” to barefoot play, and I sit on the sideline and tell them if they hit the baby they lose the game.

We drive back with the windows down and the bumps uncomfortable and I feel it once more—the happy satisfaction of being. The “We are doing something important here” mixed with “This is what I was made for.” No, it isn’t perfect and yes most of the kids have most of the same problems over and over again—but it is some kind of home.

Check out Caid's vlog (especially those of you who don't really want to read all that I write): 
The kids gave 180 eggs that we will be using in our Easter celebrations for 6 communities of impoverished children! More pictures/video from the celebrations to come!