Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Fergies

We wish you all the best! If you'd like to see our good wishes from Living Stones, check it out!
Sunday Funday has gone crazy. Here is the video from last week: 

And here is something you shouldn't miss from the Internet: When we don't want to think about Aleppo, especially at Christmas

I didn't post last week because were on our family vacation in Madison, Indiana:

And today is Christmas:) Christmas on Sunday feels a bit odd somehow. And why do holidays pass so quickly? Today felt like it was 10 hours instead of 24. Time for family more than internet reads:). Next week I'll be writing from Connecticut! God bless. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

So Many Things we Don't Know

My heart is heavy. Perhaps some heaviness is needed at holidays, to remind us of what is really important and to reveal just how much we already have.
When I met Flavio after church one day in 2004, he was carrying his guitar and singing a song he had made up. I didn’t know then that he had grown up on the street, his mom busy working, his dad gone, and not enough food on the table. I didn’t know then that he had come to Christ and then started teaching guitar at the very first Living Stones program in 1998.

When I walked by Flavio’s house every day on my way to Living Stones, I didn’t know then that God was working in his life, calling him to the ministry. I didn’t know that he had given up his job, and all of his old plans. When we walked together every day to Cajueiro Claro Living Stones, through the rain and sun and mud and dust, I didn’t know then that we would become work partners, that he would become my pastor, or that we would become such good friends.
I don’t know why God gave this out-of-the-way, messy, hard, stubborn, and real community to Pastor Flavio. I’ve worked with at-risk children for half my life, and these are the hardest kids I’ve seen. Maybe that is why I love them the most. I didn’t know then that we would each get married to incredible people—and now are a partnership of 4. I didn’t know that our daughters run around together through the old yellow church.
It has been a hard year at Cajueiro Claro, just like every year. There have been many victories, but in great poverty and struggle, the community is so depleted of resources that it is a drain and constant giving, giving, giving. Most of those receiving do not understand how to reciprocate. It will probably take a generation of this faithful dedication before we see results.
But Pastor Flavio and Mercia and Heloise are there, and are loving even the unlovely. Heloise has suffered many health difficulties this year, and has been in the hospital almost every month with high fevers. At the end of November, Pastor Flavio’s car was totaled. Because he wasn’t driving (one of the older boys from Living Stones, 21, had run a quick errand for him), he was unable to receive any insurance money. Thank God everyone involved is okay.
I think every one of us knows what it feels like to have a hard year, and then be blindsided by something at the end of it. Pastor Flavio is supported by one church in the USA, but that is not enough for his family, so he began his own business, and has grown it into a convenience store. He is also the pastor of Cajueiro Claro, and runs the Living Stones program during the week.  But if you see him, he always has time to share and smile and encourage others. He is truly a great man of God, and someone I am proud to know.
Pastor Flavio is back to walking to Cajueiro Claro. Using public transportation, it takes longer to get there and back than the time spent with the children or at meetings. With finances tight, no car, and still car payments, it has been a hard holiday season. But God is faithful. And even with discouraging times, Pastor Flavio and Mercia know they are right where God put them, and are continuing on.
This Christmas, I remember this family and what a privilege it is to have them as work partners, our pastor, and our friends. It is heavy to be away from them during this hard time. We have sent our love and support, and they know they are not alone. I know you are not lacking for opportunities to give, but if you would like one more, this family is worth your investment.

For those of you who know Flavio and Mercia, perhaps write them a quick note on Facebook? Their names are Flavio S Travassos Travassos and Mercia Elizabeth. If you would like send them a gift, then click here (Click the option for “Brazil” and then “Missionaries” and then “Pastor Flavio”).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Indy Sunday Funday

Yesterday I finally got "caught up" on videos, so we have last moments in Brazil, How to leave well, and Arriving in Indianapolis:

From the Interwebs:
1. Some really great and open/honest questions to ask yourself: Is it time to go home?
2.  I didn't know this was a thing, but have definitely had it: Tongue tied? Blame your Affective Filter
3. I especially love #3, but they are all great ideas: 6 ways to speed clean (Ann Voskamp)
4. Still want/need to do this: #withAleppo

Christmas is coming:)! 

Sharing about the Year

(This was written and shared for the Christmas Missionary Bazaar at Horizon Central)

Since 2004 I have lived and studied and failed and succeeded in being a missionary. In 2013 I got married to a man who was born in Jamaica, but moved to the USA when he was 6. We dated, long distance, and then he went to Brazil and served with me, and married me in Brazil, and then we returned to the USA.

God called us both back to Brazil in 2015, and we started our family there—with my daughter being born in Brazil. Doing missions married in completely different from doing it single. Doing missions with children is different than without children. My daughter is a third culture kid—meaning that she is raised in a culture different than her parents, and in a sense, creates her own mixture of life with everything together. My husband is a TCK as well, and this year he has deepened my understanding of what it means to do missions.

I grew up reading missionary biographies and quite frankly, having missionaries on a pedestal. That is why it took me many years of doing missions before I felt "worthy" of calling myself a missionary. The thing is, there is no rule book, or at least I have not found it--and I sure have looked.
The missions group I work with has always felt that the ministry should be run and owned by the local leaders of the ministry. As an American going to Brazil as a missionary, I am not there to “bring Jesus” (Someone noted that He is too heavy), I am there to assist and train and love and learn and do life with Jesus who is already moving mountains there.  My job, if done successfully, is to work myself out of a job. But I never realized how painful it can be to not be needed anymore.

One moment of time sticks out to me to illustrate this for you: I was at the home of a poor family with 9 daughters, and we were celebrating birthdays (which we do a lot of). I had brought a picnic, and we were sitting there laughing, when two strangers came up to us and started talking to me—asking if I was American, if I was famous, what I liked about the USA…I swallowed my annoyance, answered their questions quickly, and then turned back to the incredible birthday girl. I invited them to stay for our picnic, and soon they forgot about me, and saw the girls. They sang happy birthday with us. They later asked me how they could help out this needy family. My role wasn’t anything big—it was simply to divert the focus to where it belonged. To celebrate what was important.

My husband speaks better Portuguese than I do. He learned in a year what took me over 5 years. He studies for fun. He watches movies in Portuguese when I just want to relax. He plays Portuguese praise music in the car. He invites our Brazilian friends over ALL. THE. TIME. And I have been pushed outside my comfort zone to answer questions about what it really means to embrace and understand and learn a different culture. He reminds me that our relationships are not our job—they are a privilege and honor.

When you think about long lasting change, you think about relationships. It is those closest to us that actually ‘rub off’ on us. If you want to see who you will be in five years—look at those around you. At a wedding recently, there was music playing, and our daughter started dancing. Caid, with his impressive dancing skills, started twirling me around, and we didn’t stop for a couple songs. Some of my old students came up and said “You know? We want to be like you guys when we grow up.” And that is how missions works. You live life and Jesus shines and others see and want it too.

The two main things I know I need to do feel like an oxymoron—I am here, and doing life here means being here 100%. It is about reciprocal relationships. I am not just here to give—I need to be open to receiving. I NEED to receive as well. And just as much, I need to let go, to step back and let others succeed in leading. I also am physically leaving for a time as we are back in the States. My family is all in the USA, and so part of me is always lacking wherever I am. So how do I put down roots at the same time as (and teaching others to) use wings?

Missions, ministry, parenting, life is a constant balance, learning, and re-learning how to have roots (responsibility, deep relationships, commitment) and wings (letting go, change, discovery). Hope is like that oxymoron, having both wings and roots. Hope (in the Lord) is the balance.

So we come to a message of hope: Christmastime. Thousands of years the Jews hoped for the Messiah, and now for around two thousand years we look back, every year, at this Hope born in a manger. Wherever you are in your story: parenting, missions, ministry, single, let us stop to remember this hope that we have, and how it gives us roots and wings.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Returning Well

Or, still trying to return well.

We were only 40 minutes late to leave (sorry to make you wait Jeff!), and the apartment wasn't as clean as I'd wanted it, but the refrigerator was empty and cleaned and all of our stuff stored in a room off to the side. On the plus side, we filmed a bit of our "leaving thoughts" and will make a vlog of it soon. Our rent is paid and our neighbors know we are gone and are ready to welcome our friends who will come. And we did the leaving pretty well.

Our first flight, before the plane took off, Ana did her mean screams and Caid and I sat there. Do you cover her mouth to muffle it a bit, or does that just make it last longer? In those minutes, I was sure this trip would kill me. We made eye contact with NO ONE on the plane. But it passed and she was fine and the next two flights she slept most of the time, with only quiet sobs of "where am I?" in between. 20 hours later, we arrived (and our wonderful friends took pictures).
After arriving, all we managed to do was eat, shower, and sleep. Amazing how much goes into all of that! Saturday we got to go to the annual Christmas Missions Bazaar at our home church, Horizon Central, and I got to share. It was such a blessing, but I always forget that I am extra emotional when jet lagged. I shouldn't share much the first couple weeks getting home. But it went well until the end, when I talk about hope, and hope is just such a big, overwhelming wonderful thing that I ended a little quickly before the tears blurred up everything. 
Sunday we got to hang out with the cool kids of Shelbyville Community church.We can only manage one event a day, at least until we unpack, which is a huge pile of everything in a room I dread to enter. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will figure out next week. 
We are happy to be home in the USA, and hope to start scheduling times to meet up with so many amazing friends in this lovely holiday season! We will be in Indy until December 26, and then in Ohio and Connecticut December 27 to January 23. After that we will see what is after that. 

December Sunday Funday

Caid and Ana Sofia are upstairs, laughing with my mom about a funny story from when I was little. I just made raspberry short-cake (raspberries are better than strawberries). We are back in Indianapolis. It was and is and will be a big transition, as transitions take time (I think that is the whole point). We put together two videos before we left, to share with some special kids here in the USA:

Tuesday night, before we left, Pastor Flavio's car was totaled. Luckily, all of the people involved, including two from the Living Stones program, are fine, health wise. Unfortunately, Pastor Flavio is now without a vehicle. I hope to be posting more (and what you can do to help!) soon. 
I will also post a separate blog about returning home. 

Reads from the Interwebs:
2. Come as you are:  "As a woman, I have spent most of my marriage and all of my motherhood crucifying myself between two thieves. The one is perfection and the other is failure."
3. Controversial Christian books you should read: just because you disagree doesn't mean you shouldn't read it--in fact, it is almost more of a reason to read it. 
4. Secondary Trauma: a great read from a good friend: "While the feeling of being a safe haven is amazing, the reality of it is intense."
5. Dear Children of Aleppo: so apparently, #givingtuesday was a thing and I missed it. Next year! But seriously, this breaks my heart, and I think Christmas is about making sure our hearts remember to break and be broken. #WithAleppo 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two More Days

Goodbyes are not just at airports. No, there seems to be a two-week line, that once you pass, in some way you are saying a small (or large) goodbye. About two weeks out you start waking up with that feeling—sometimes happy, sometimes not—that you are going. Change is in the air. The suitcases may or may not be out, but an informal (or formal, for type A-ers) list is being made of what will make the cut, and what won’t. At the end of meetings or lunch out, you squeeze them a little tighter. You order that special something that you can only get there, because who knows when you will get it again. You pause to watch the sunset and have all kinds of nostalgia and wonderings about the future.
One week before leaving the heat turns up. You stop doing the things that aren’t necessary to do, and get busy with the things that are (and hopefully keep sleeping and eating). You start giving away food you know you won’t eat, at the same time as making twice as many trips to the store for the things you think you will need. Piles of paper are dropped in the trash as it suddenly becomes clear you will never do “that,” it just looked nice on Pinterest. You’ve made all the calls to those people who you must have one more time with.
Leaving well is about organizing your stuff so other people (who shouldn’t have to) don’t have to. It is about making sure all the dishes are done and the fridge is clean. Leaving well is about making sure you and those who love you have time for closure. About saying the things that need to be said, and letting go of the rest. Leaving well is being prepared to arrive well: stepping from one life into another doesn’t pause and reset. And when you are married and have kids, leaving well means doing all that times a million.
Three days out you’ll get your period or your computer crashes or someone gets sick and all your timelines and lists get thrown out. You toss it all in the air and hope it lands, folded, into the suitcase. You realize you just can’t go through another round of goodbyes because you will fall apart and so you nicely excuse yourself to soak in a tub and forget for a couple of hours. Forget that everything is changing, and just be still.
Until you arrive at those airport goodbyes, which are already mixed with the adventure butterflies, because in every change there is hope, even if just in the unknown. It isn’t until the bags are checked (and not overweight) that the first sigh of relief escapes, and you turn your energy on to hoping that the long flight has personal TVs. Because really, thinking about anything else is overwhelming.
Once the fun of seeing everything small and insignificant wears off (about an hour into the flight), you let yourself feel tired for the first time in two weeks, and you get lost in the world of in-betweens, because you don’t normally get to be lost (unless you have kids and then you just hope everyone on the flight won’t hate you and the kid will just sleep).
It isn’t until about two weeks in that you start to unpack your goodbyes. What they meant and what they will mean. It is long after you’ve put away your clothes and hidden your suitcase in some corner, closet, or underbed. After you’ve figured out your new system to feel clean and normal. If you don’t leave well, life will go on. You might have forgotten stuff, forgotten to hug so and so, forgotten to thank your mother enough, but the things that matter, we work hard enough to fix, or we make do.
But it is a good feeling to know you left well. It is a great skill to leave well, built up over years of diligent habits. Some leavings turn out better than others, and most of that is not in our control. But talk about it, read about it, iron it out in your heart: don’t let it sneak up on you just because it is hard. And always remember, it is a blessing to have a place to leave that is worth leaving well.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Sunday Funday

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
Sunday Funday happened on Monday this week because on Sunday we celebrated 6 years of Cajueiro Claro:

It has been a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving week (end). Even though we were far from home, we had so many friends have us over and coming over, and my mashed sweet potatoes turned out perfectly. Thank you for your prayers as we leave this Thursday for ze US of A. We are excited to be sharing at the Christmas bazaar on Saturday (Come!) and with the kids at Shelbyville Community church on Sunday. Next week's Sunday Funday is going to look and feel VERY different. 

Reads from the Interwebs;
1. Are we complaining too much? The balance between authenticity and whining. Hard to find. 
2. The cure if you are bored with the Christian life; "Because sometimes the Gospel looks like a plate of food and sometimes it looks like a job. But it always looks like showing up."
3. How to avoid becoming a "White saviour". I am really loving everything from Craig Greenfield these days--I couldn't even wait until Sunday to read his stuff. THIS. IS. POWERFUL. And so important. Sidekick manifesto; because "In the story of poverty's end, we can only be the sidekick."
(this awesome graphic is NOT MINE...check out the real thing on the above link) 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Less than two Weeks Sunday Funday

We are leaving in less than two weeks, so if it isn't on my list, it isn't happening. If it is on my list, we hope for the best.
We did go to the beach, and it was amazing:)
Our other video is from last weeks' Sorvetada;

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Thursday is Thanksgiving! And all us "Internationals" here in Brazil get together for a wonderful time; I am always blessed by it. Here is an international view of Thanksgiving. And the cost of being gone. 
2. Gotta say--this Thanksgiving I am thinking "Thanksgiving-and-then-Gilmore-Girls" we two of my best friends are coming over and we are sitting. And watching. On Friday. YES:). Here are 10 questions we want answered. And what a great idea: Gilmore Girl themed devotional? Why do I love that show so much?
3. Welcome to holiday season. I would love any of these (22 Gift ideas for cross-cultural workers), except #7 which I already have. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Beach Sunday Funday

I am really looking forward to a short trip to the beach. While we live an hour and some away from the ocean, circumstances this year have hindered us from having any beach time (biggest hindrance: I am stingy. With time and money). Ana hasn't been to the beach since she was three months old, and I am pretty sure she loves eating sand, so we are going to have a blast.
This week we enjoyed being in a country other than the USA, and November 9th was our 3rd anniversary, rather than "The day we found out who our next president would be."
We saw one of our core team families off, as they return to the USA for a bit, and then move to South Brazil. We will miss them terribly, but being used to good-byes, we hugged and smiled and waved and knew we'd feel the brunt of the change after this phase of transitions. Our lives are speeding up as we try to fit everything in that normally would happen over another year...

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. I read this last week, and it wouldn't get out of my head! SO TRUE! When you want a different life. 
2. I am not ignoring the USA completely. I have read plenty about it through social media. I am just not sure what to say. But this piece, about missions, seems to say it perfectly. Trump supporters--welcome to the world of missions to the culture of Hillary/Bernies! Hillary/Bernies--welcome to the world of missions to the culture of Trumpers! This 1963 quote from Max Warren is it: 

"Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion 
Is to take off our shoes
For the place we are approaching is holy
Else we find ourselves
Treading on another’s dreams
More serious still, we may forget that God was there before our arrival.

We have to try to sit where they sit, to enter sympathetically into the pains and grieves and joys of their history and see how those pains and griefs and joys have determined the premises of their argument. We have, in a word, to be ‘present’ with them.”

3. For a minute I thought to myself "But I've never really been betrayed." Then I remembered. I tend to bury hurt pretty far down. When the ground swallows you.
4. So you are thinking about serving overseas? Send this to anyone you know thinking about this! There is no rule/guide book for missionaries, but this online community sure helps (and I wish I had it back in the day)!
5. The benefits of parenting in China. I want to put together a list of benefits of parenting in Brazil! While away from home, sometimes we forget there is good stuff too!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November Sunday Funday

Every Sunday I take a look around our small yellow church in Cajueiro Claro and see my daughter running around like a crazy woman. And I smile and think, "I am so glad this is her normal."
Halloween isn't really celebrated in Brazil (although for some reason, it was the reason why the kids in Guadalajara didn't have ANOTHER school day on Friday, November 4th), and we don't really celebrate it either, but I do like an excuse to dress up, or at least, dress up Ana Sofia:
Wednesday, November 2nd, was a holiday here, Dia de Finados (much like Day of the Dead), which means lots of flowers are sold. We enjoyed some good family time. Caid preached again today, and it was a blessing. This next week is mixed feelings, as our good friends, the Soares family, will be leaving for the USA and then moving to Sao Paulo. Wednesday is our 3 year wedding anniversary: 

From the internet: It's not all about war. Not too much else to say--happy voting everyone, and I hope to see love shared the day after. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Funday End of October

This has been a lot of our October:
And I am so grateful and excited to once again be a part of planning and discipling and carrying out and getting sunburnt and all that goes along with Children's Day and sharing the gospel with over 300 children. 
Caid and his choir recorded this and had a lovely evening at our house last week:

If you did not get the Living Stone's e-newsletter on Friday--let me know!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. I am really enjoying Craig Greenfield's writing! As we talk politics- take a look at this: Five tips for dealing with corruption. And yes, I voted this week!
2. What a sad thing it is, when we show someone our heart, and they turn away, or say what we are feeling is wrong. I need to learn how to listen. WHITE PEOPLE in general--we are not listening. Not really. We have to change this, one relationship at a time. 
3. The other day I was wondering if I was becoming more of a feminist. I think reality is that I am connecting and understanding the problems feminists have been talking about. This is something the church needs to be talking about. And racism. and homosexuality. I am not okay with ignoring these things anymore. 
4. The difference between leaving for missions and coming back from missions: a big dose of humility. Well, I hope so, at least. Coming full circle on really understanding the things you say you believe. Quite scary stuff, actually. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Funday Preaching

The vlog this week is mostly all about Ana Sofia. Her favorite foods are green olives, beans, and cheese. She is crazy in love with all animals, especially dogs. Her favorite word is "Daddy," but she also says "shoes" and "boca" (which is mouth in Portuguese). Today, while talking to Grandma Ferguson, she also said "vovo" which is Grandma in Portuguese. So basically, she says whatever language is easier to pronounce. 
If you haven't (or have already), check out our website, which has the other video I did this week, and awesome new graphics, which I am learning to do. Caid preached today in Cajueiro Claro, and it was such a blessed time. This weekend was the last of our Children's day parties: 5 celebrations, 8 communities, and around 300 children: it's been awesome and tiring (as most good things in life). Here are some of their lovely faces:

A read from the Interwebs (and then a rant from Rachel): 
"Why is it Always about Money?" It is a good general question, but specifically it lists an article I posted here recently (What's Wrong with Western Missionaries?) that I can't get out of my head. This whole idea of interdependence and reciprocal relationships and what that means. The thing is, I have mostly been thinking, as the article says, about money. What about everything else? 
I have also been wrestling with how to balance deeper relationships with "working myself out of a job." These two objectives that we have as missionaries seem to be warring against each other: are we hear to set down roots and create meaningful relationships, or are we hear to train, cheer on, and then let local leaders fly as we quietly step back? Paradoxes and promises and a lot more to think about. 

And then there is going home, "Home." Someone (graciously) brought up if our supporters knew that two able-bodied people would be returning home for a year for personal reasons, and if we would be working full time. It was done in a kind way, but it still hit me a bit. My first reaction was to throw back facts: Yes, they know. Yes, Caid and I clock in around 70 hours a week (I am part time, as am a full-time mom), and will continue to do so, working for World Renewal International while in Indiana. 
I wanted to explain how I am conflicted with this "personal reason" of going home, and Zika and children and diseases and natural birth and money...and how I wish my child would be Brazilian, but we feel this is how God is leading. I wanted to share how missionary furloughs, or "home assignments" as we call them, are great and wonderful and really, really complex and difficult. How the transitions get complicated with children. 
I wanted to explain so much because I wanted to justify myself. It sounded like the person didn't trust that we work hard, or that our work is valid. It sounded like they were saying we were taking a year of vacation, and were not fair to our supporters. I know this person trusts me. They wanted to make sure it didn't look bad to others who might not know me. And it might. Anything different from a 9 to 5 job is often misunderstood, especially when it involves other people's money. 
There are awful people who have taken the label  "Missionary" or "minister" and then abused it. Accountability and transparency are important. Working hard and serving with quality is a must. I have, and always will work to be a trustworthy missionary. That is one of the reasons why we have started doing weekly vlogs: we invite you into our daily life as a missionary. The old way of doing missions, where you get a report once every four years, needs to change: that is not enough support or accountability for either side (the missionary and the supporter). We feel that it is part of our calling to have reciprocal relationships with our supporters, and so we open the door for you to see our lives through video. We invite you to come to Brazil. We send you more e-mails than you have time to read. And we are excited to have more time in the USA to cultivate those relationships in person. How much of it counts as official "work time?" That is a tricky line to walk. 

There is another side to giving. When I give money to churches, or people, or ministries, I don't give because they "convinced me it was a good idea." I give because I feel like God is asking me to. In a very real way, I am giving it to God. And while I work hard to give responsibly, I also give without strings attached. My rational, practical self says, "Hey, if they misuse it, God will get 'em" which is completely wrong doctrine, but you get the idea.
Unfortunately, just like we blame Disney for our relationship problems, I blame all those missionary biographies for this "Spend no money and never take a vacation slave missionary" idea. I say this in part jest, part seriousness (and I still read and recommend missionary biographies and Disney movies). I know I put missionaries on pedestals so much, it took me years to call myself a missionary. So we get to the bottom line: who decides if we were careful enough or worked hard enough? God, or the people who give us money? 
I hope all our supporters trust us (and from their responses, they overwhelmingly do!), but I hope even more that they gave/give to us not because we deserve it, or have a pretty prayer card, but because God wanted them to. I hope beyond hope it isn't because I guilted them into it with a really passionate presentation. I want them to give because God told them to, and that is its own reward. No strings attached. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunburn Sunday Funday

We had an amazing Children's Day party with 80 kids and 3 communities and many people coming together to make it happen. I also forgot to put on sunscreen. Oh well. This week I got my library card in Brazil! This has been a long time coming, and is very bittersweet:
I also put together my thoughts about voting, as I will be sending in my absentee vote soon. From the internet:
1. BE the change! love how Ann Voskamp just goes and does things instead of preaching it.
2. This was right on. Wish I had written it: how to encourage your overseas worker

Saturday was Teacher's Day in Brazil, and we get to celebrate it tomorrow:). Happy Teacher's Day to all you amazing world-changers out there!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Never Ever

If you are #neverhillary or #nevertrump, I understand. If you think through and decide you can't vote for a man who treats women like poo, I understand. If you vote for Hillary just because she is a woman, I understand. If you vote Trump just because he doesn't sound like all the other politicians, I understand. If you vote third party because you don't want to have to tell your daughter you voted for either candidate, I understand. If you refuse to vote third party because it is a wasted vote, I understand. 
If you don't vote because you don't like the candidates, I don't understand. If you don't vote because it is a hassle, I don't understand. If you don't vote because you don't want to have to deal with facing crap, I don't understand. Struggle with it. Disagree with me. But please don't be lazy. Figuring out your political views is taking time to care about the future you are giving to the next generation, even if your political view is to get as far away from government as possible. 
Here is the dirty truth: America isn't the center of the universe. The rest of the world, including many countries with leaders that make our choices look like saints, have and will continue to function. We will continue to function. How you vote is simply a reflection of who you are- and it should reflect your conscience, not mine. How we act the day after the election is a reflection of who you are as well. I want to see beautiful, creative things.
If you have decided how you are going to vote: good. If you want to share why: Okay. If you really feel others should agree with you: sounds normal. But watch where you go after that. It is never your job to change anyone. Ever. 
Here is the ugly dirty truth: I am not the center of the universe. It is not my job to make people agree with me. But Rachel, aren’t you a missionary? Isn’t converting people to your religion your job? Thankfully, No. It isn’t about me at all. I have found this most amazing gift: salvation. I have this most intimate friend: Jesus. And He has made my life better. He has changed me. And so I post on Facebook about Him all the time. I think that everyone I know should be a Christian- because I want them to be happy and find what I have found. But it is not my job to change anyone. Ever. I will not save anyone. Ever. I will only share what I know is true and hope others get it. Thank goodness there is the Holy Spirit to change hearts and minds! 
It is important to warn someone if they are about to hurt themselves. It is important to share the truth, and dispel lies. But it is not my job to control them (unless they are my young child who is trying to burn herself on the stove. I have a little bit of control there. But any parent can tell you that control is very short lived). And it is never my job to change them. Ever. The best shot I have is to live my life in such a way that they will say "Hey, I want that- how do I get it?" 
Sharing your political view is natural, because anything you believe in, you want others to believe in as well. Especially if you feel it will really make a difference in your/their lives. 
Using mean, cruel words or actions to try to change someone's mind is crossing the line. Guilting them into changing their mind is shameful. Anything that is not love is wrong. Confused about what love is? Read 1st Corinthians 13 again. It is never your job to change someone's mind. Never ever.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday Funday Cooking

This week's video was the third Authentic Brazilian cooking video. Sharing about another culture shouldn't be reduced to talking about food--but it sure is a fun part about learning some place new! Here are the videos and amazing (first time put down on paper) recipes:
Traditional Brazilian Rice Recipe: (Video 1)
3 Tablespoons of grated carrot
Small onion, cut small
3 cloves of garlic, diced
2 seasoning packets (or bouillon cubes crushed)
Sauté with 2 Tablespoons of margarine or butter
Add in a kilo of rice and continue to sauté
Add 8 cups of boiling water (add more if needed)

Traditional Rio Brown Beans Recipe: (Video 1)
3 chunks of chaque (salted meat)
½ an onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons of oil
5 pieces of meat/bones for flavor
4 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons cilantro
Greens, as desired
1 Tablespoon coloral (optional)
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 seasoning packets (or 2 bouillon cubes, crushed)
½ a kilo of beans that was soaked in water overnight
6-8 cups of water
Put all ingredients into the pressure cooker and turn it on. Once it is hissing, let it hiss for 15 minutes and then turn off the stove.
Open the pressure cooker (ONLY WHEN ALL THE AIR IS OUT AND IT IS NOT HISSING!) and add your vegetables. Suggested:
Chunk of pumpkin
½ a head of cabbage
6 stalks of okra
Close the pressure cooker, turn on the stove. Once it is hissing, let it hiss for 15-20 minutes, and then turn off the stove. Once the cooker is cooled off/air out, it is done.

Galinha Guisada (boiled chicken) Recipe: (Video 2)
1.5 kilos of chicken
2 garlic cloves
small onion
1/3 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
2 seasoning packets/ bouillon cubes 
Coloral (optional)
Water to cover it all
Keep adding water as it boils. once you see the meat is cooked, stop 
adding water and let it cook a bit more

Coconut Fish Recipe: (Video 2)
A whole fish (Tilapia or other)
Make sure the scales, fins, digestive tract, and weird stuff in the head are removed. Slice in 1-2 inch thick pieces, and then the head. Cover each piece in flour and fry in ¼ an inch of oil. Mix together following ingredients:
Tablespoon oregano
2 garlic cloves
small onion
1/3 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
2 seasoning packets/ bouillon cubes 
Coloral (optional)
A green pepper
6 cups coconut milk (open one large coconut, get all the “meat” out and put in the blender with water) 
Put with the fish into a pot and boil for 30 minutes

Chicken Stroganoff Recipe: (Video 3)
6 cups chicken broth (she just used the broth from the Galinha Guisada)
1 ½ cups milk cream (crème de leite, which you can get at a Mexican grocery store)
A squeeze (Tablespoon) of mustard and mayonnaise 
3 Tablespoons of ketchup
BLEND in the blender and then boil, stirring occasionally. In a large dish put:
8 cups shredded chicken (she just used the chicken from Galinha Guisada)
1 cup canned corn
1 cup canned peas
1 cup of milk cream
Stir everything together, add the boiled sauce, and then add mayonnaise and mustard to taste

Lane’s Rice Surprise Recipe: (Video 3)
1 small onion, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped, 
1 Tablespoon green pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Saute the above ingredients in 2 Tablespoons of butter, and then add:
1 cup of coconut milk
2 cups of chicken broth
Take off the burner and add:
4-5 cups of rice (or shredded chicken and rice) until all the sauce is soaked up
2 Tablespoons of milk cream (to make it creamier) 
Layer rice/sauce mixture in a glass pan with cheese
Put in the oven until the cheese is melted

Here are some reads from the interwebs:
1. Must READ for Missionary hosts and future short-term mission trippers!
2. Yes please! The problem of pain is so big. We need art. We need to emotionally work things out.
3. Getting to the root of the matter and focusing on what matters in parenting/disciplining
4. A look at "Tent-making" missionaries. 
5. Statistics to kinda-sorta maybe understand global poverty a little better. AKA realizing that Americans got it good. 

I am currently having many controversial thoughts about voting and police brutality. Yes. Eventually, I hope to be able to blog about it. We had a wonderful week, celebrating and sharing the gospel with more children for Children's Day (actual Children's Day is October 12, so next week is the bulk of our celebrating). Lots of pictures on Facebook, and videos to come!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October Sunday Funday

This week I got super excited about the "Baby Abroad" idea that I had. I have been asked a lot, and I know others are interested in what all goes into having a baby somewhere else. And I wish I could have seen these videos before having Ana Sofia--they would have been so helpful!  So, hoping they are helpful to someone else:). Part 1:
Part 2: 

Part 3: 

It was a lovely week, and it is now October! Two months from today we will be in the USA! If you or someone you happen to know has (used) extra winter clothes for a girl size 12-18 months, we could sure use it: all of Ana's clothes are summer clothes. Also a car seat for the same age range. 
October 12 is Children's Day, but we have already started celebrating--and will continue every weekend this month! 
Reading around the Interwebs:
1. What I wish I could Hear from a Politician. So true! We received our absentee voting ballots...and I am still at a loss as to what to do. 
2. An interesting and perceptive look at black men in America and showing emotion
3. Almost All White Working-Class Evangelicals Think ‘Christian Values’ Are ‘Under Attack’. The thing is, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE! If we are living life right as a Christian, we are supposed to be going against the grain of the government of this world. If we are under attack, then why are we complaining about it instead of praising God that we might just now be starting to get something right?
4. Finally! A fun magazine-style survey for missionaries! 
5. Sacrifice is so tricky! I know I am supposed to be doing it...but how quickly do my motives shift just enough that it isn't for Christ anymore?
6. What big thoughts: "Shame dies when stories are told in safe places." and “Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?”― C.S. Lewis
7. This sort of broke me. I have a lot more thinking to do about this: Who's writing this Story?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Funday End of September

This happened today:
Caid sharing God's Word, in Portuguese. It was round table style today, and a blessing to all present (especially me).
I was very proud of the videos we put together this week, mostly about Ana Sofia, but I was especially excited about the video from our zoo trip. We are seeking to be more and more professional in all we do, but being professional can be painful and so time consuming! So seeing results is a blessing:). Here is that video:
And here were the Ana videos:

I was blessed with some good, deep discussions with friends and these thoughts about Josh Harris and screwing up the next generation. Time is ticking as we leave Brazil in a little over 2 months, and the list of things to do is longer than the days. But God knows, and certainly helps prioritize things! Here are some good reads from the "Interwebs"
1. Farewell to the Missionary Hero--and it has some of my internet favs listed in it! I think--and am excited to see what happens with--missionary vlogging and sharing about day to day things.
2. "If I had to name a regret in my life—it would be this: That I didn’t discover the breathtaking beauty of serving others sooner." Read more.
3. Because I trust her judgement and wanted some advice on some good podcasts and documentaries to check out!
4. "When I give someone the chance to meet my needs they either do, which helps me continue to invest into them but with a mutual connection, or they don't. If they don't understand or are not able to meet my desires then I have this opportunity to love sacrificially." More Karianne awesomeness
5. Watched a really great talk by Christine Caine about Deliverance vs. Freedom--you know, the Isrealites were delivered from slavery, but never got to the freedom of the promised land. I couldn't find her talk on YouTube, but if you have a chance to check her out, you should. And while she spoke, I kept thinking about the kids I have been working with since I was 16, and how many of them have not made it to freedom yet. But then I realized: even God only managed to get two Isrealites to the promised land. He brought in the next generation. I am excited to be working now with this next generation! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Josh Harris Victim

A good friend of mine posted this article: Abstinence Author, Pastor Joshua Harris, Apologizes for Telling Christians Not to Date in 'I Kissed Dating Goodbye , and I took the click bate and followed it to this article: Against Evangelical Victim Culture (Stop Blaming Josh Harris for Your Problems), which led me to this article: Truth Matters: A Response to Gregory Shane Morris. It was a lot of reading. 

As an ATI, homeschooled, IKDG reader, I find all of these things interesting to read and understand. I feel like I am still figuring out my own past and how it works into who I am today. A couple of years ago I would have told you I had a pretty awesome childhood. Today I would tell you the same thing. If you had more time to discuss it, there would be more to say about it--ups and downs and what not--but I was blessed and am not afraid to say it. Especially after living in a developing country and realizing what a "hard childhood" can really look like. 

I have accidentally wandered into Facebook chats full of angry people against homeschooling, against Bill Gothard, against ATI, against Josh Dugger, against Josh Harris...and they always leave me reeling. First, I feel overwhelming sad over the amount of people hurting--truly hurting--from their childhood. Second, I feel overwhelmingly shocked at the bitterness and hatred spewed out by those hurting people, and others who join them (for I am not sure what reason). Lastly, I tend to run and write a blog to try to organize my thoughts and perhaps just add one more voice to the pile. (See my blog about the Duggars , Josh Duggar, and Bill Gothard)
My childhood was full of all of these people, and they affected me, in some good ways and some bad ways. But more than any of these people, I remember my family. And my family affected me much more--in some good ways and some bad ways. But I love them and miss them and can't wait to see them again and hug them and argue with them and cry and laugh and hopefully not scream too loud. Because that is family.

The thing is, I relate to Josh Harris. I knew much more of what I believed and what was right and wrong and how I would live my life when I was 20 than I do now. I am trying to imagine what it would be like to have written a book when I was 20--and that be the only thing that people know me by now. And then, taking that book and taking all those opinions, pain, bitterness, and hatred thrown at me and not flinching. Having read discussions. Hurting with those who hurt. And trying to find a way toward healing and love and truth. Yes--truth. Sticking to the truth of God, while realizing what parts I added in.

That sounds like what I have been working on for the last 10 years of my life, and will probably take at least another 20 years to do. A comment on the first article about Josh Harris said, "Being able to examine past decisions and consider the possibility that they were mistakes is a sign of a deep, intelligent person. Respect." I hope to be that person too. Especially when I realize, in all of my study of my childhood, that I am currently creating someone else's childhood. Someday, my daughter is going to be writing articles like this about how I raised her. I really hope I don't screw it up.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mid-September Sunday Funday

We are half-way through local Brazilian political campaigning. They vote October 2nd--and there is a lot of differences between Brazil and the USA when it comes to politics and voting:
Last week had some awesome experiences, and I am excited to share them with you as soon as I finished the videos (like going to the zoo) 

Here are some really great resources I found on the internet this week. Can I just say that I feel really blessed with the online communities I have found lately? It means a lot, being in missions, to talk about missions:). 
1. Resource to teach kids about missions. Actually, I think you should check out our vlogs first :), but this (FREE) course looks amazing as well!
2. My favorite read from earlier this week hit me hard. I am hoping for some time to sit down and really pray and think and figure out what this means practically for me. This other article about how we do missions is along the same lines. 
3. This one is for my bilingual friends--how it seems "me" is a little different in Portuguese from who I am in English. 
4. I am really, really excited about Craig Greenfield. You know when you find someone who is writing just what you wanted to say? Here is a (long) pdf about the role of an Outsider. And here is a website of a work they are doing--which is something I need to study more about because it is the heart of what I want for Living Stones. 
5. Keeping up with American news and Colin Kaepernick
6. One of my online communities, Velvet Ashes, had some awesome resources about sex this week. SO GLAD THEY WENT THERE! I love and need healthy conversations about sex. yep. I looked up a bunch of these resources, but will only highlight two about same sex attraction--so important and needed! Seven things I wish my pastor new about my homosexuality, and a website

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Funday Holiday

One of the things about being in a different country is that while one part of your life is remembering somberly (9/11), the other part of your life is celebrating in the street (September 11 is when we celebrate Carpina being founded). The world is small, but not that small. We also celebrated Independence Day this past week:
and part two of our cooking series--fish and chicken:

Ana Sofia has learned how to say "please" in sign language, and how to climb out of her crib. It has been an exciting week. I hope everyone had a lovely Labor day--and here is an interesting (and important!) Labor day tradition. Talking about sex, here is a beautiful article about sharing with your daughters

Tomorrow is a big, important day: my parents have their 35th wedding anniversary! (so if you are near them, give them a hug from me) It is hard for me to wrap my head around 35 years. It is longer than I've been alive, and certainly longer than I can remember. As someone who has been married less than 3 years, I don't have much to say but WOW. 
When I think of being married a long time, I think of my grandparents, and the 50th anniversary video that Uncle Dan made. I watch that video every year. I made Caid watch that video. That video is amazing. And it makes me hum "Through the Years" just thinking about it. Mom and Dad--you only have 15 more years until that! What a thought! 
Mom and Dad, thank you for working through things. Thank you for sitting me down and explaining that just because you were arguing didn't mean you were getting a divorce (when I was young and scared and first understood what the word meant). Thank you for showing me that being in a marriage relationship wasn't easy, but it is worth it. Thank you both for still growing, still learning, still changing. 
So the only really cool thing I ever did for my parents' anniversary was on their 30th anniversary: I wrote some kind of "family" story every day for 30 days on my blog. I was single and had much more time back then. But the website is still up, and you can read those 30 days here. There is some good stuff, and I had almost forgotten about it five years later (meaning--mom, please print it out for dad to read)! 
I love you guys so much! I am excited about making my own 35 years (slowly) married someday. It is hard to be away on special days like this, but I am hoping we can save up all the celebrations (including your big 6-0 mom) and celebrate when we are home. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September Sunday Funday

Finally have an authentic Brazilian rice and beans "recipe"!!
This vlog sorta made itself, after hearing more crazy excuses for why they were not in school:

Today, Caid shared his first sermon in Portuguese at Cajueiro Claro! It was an awesome, wonderful time! We hope you all, in the USA, have a wonderful Labor Day weekend. In Brazil, we will be celebrating Independence Day on September 7th. Unfortunately, it is on Wednesday, so no nice long weekend. 
Here are some awesome reads this week:
1. Entitlement is definitely not just an American issue to deal with
2. Bouncing Back after having a baby...I appreciate this perspective
3. The many more responsibilities of being pro-life
4. Hope Chases Us (I need to read this often) "Cynicism is the wide path of least resistance, and hope never seems to find me when I’m on that track. (hope finds me) when, by my all-too-human standards, I’m not really making much progress at all." 
5. Welcome to the tribe of nomads. We were just talking about this today, at an "International group thing" that doesn't have an official name yet. 
6. This is one of the "real-ist" things I have read in awhile: When it all blows up in your face. "Many missionaries would say that they would rather be persecuted or deported than have their ministry blow up." I would be in that group of missionaries.