Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Funday February

This week was all about fashion...which is stepping out on a limb for me! Here was our weekly vlog:
I did a four part blog series as well: Fashion Series

February is almost over, and please please: if you ever pray for Brazil, please pray this weekend/week. Carnaval has been going strong, and finishes up on Wednesday. Wednesday is also the first day of Lent. I am prayerfully thinking of ways to prepare my heart (and my family) through Lent for Easter this year, and I hope you are too!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Why we should care about Black history: Love this missionary's perspective, and this hit me hard.
2. Losing Jobs and Refugee Policy: My good friend was downsized last week from a local ministry that worked with Refugees. I think the reverberations from our president's policy are just beginning. 
3. When I failed at Missions: a really great introspection. 
4. Simplicity through Sabbath: rethinking Sabbath as we take three days to prepare and then three days to contemplate...MIND BLOWN!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Introducing the Fashion Series

Another transition to the States and another round of Rachel trying to figure out her style and feel fashionable. Or at least feel somewhat like I am fitting in. I believe I am not the only one struggling this this, and feel that this is especially common to missionary women. So I am documenting my process in the hopes that it helps me figure things out, and start conversations with others who feel stuck in the area of fashion. This is the introduction to a four-part series:

2. Homeschooler’s view of Fashion: Finding your Style

3. Fashion for Missionaries: Finding Help and Time

4. The Perfect Gift for Missionary Women

By finding your style or fashion, I mean what it takes to make you feel fashionable. By fashionable, I mean special, confident, and beautiful: something I wish for all women. Feeling special for me is normally by feeling chosen, noticed by those I admire. Feeling confident is feeling strong and knowing I can handle what comes my way. Feeling beautiful is feeling like everything came together with my outfit and hair and accessories and makeup.

What do you need to feel fashionable? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fashion for Missionaries: Finding Help and Time

I am a blessed woman. I have a husband who gets lost in my bloodshot, mascara smudged eyes, and can't keep his hands off me for snuggles, cuddles, and intimacy. He always tells me how amazing I am. I always feel wanted. But I still don't always feel beautiful. Sometimes it doesn't matter what he says.

Growing up in a conservative Christian homeschooling family, I felt out of the loop (for better and for worse) and never quite understood fashion and make up and clothes: my style was made up of making other people happy (covering up), what we could afford (not much) and comfort/practical (that was me). (Read more HERE)
Then I became a missionary. I lived in a different world where I never really would or could fit in completely. Being different became normal, and since I was used to doing my own thing, I never fully learned my new culture's way of doing things (which I felt required high heels, and that made my stomach hurt). Missionary life embraces frugality and not focusing on yourself, and so I continued on, not giving much investment into fashion. Every time I re-enter my home culture, I am so far behind it felt like a losing battle not worth fighting to catch up.
But every once in a while I am asked to sing or speak somewhere, and as I look around, I didn't look like everyone else. I feel stares that seem like (may or may not be) they are saying, "Don't you have self-respect? Can't you put a little effort into this? And I feel small. Unladylike. Unfeminine. Left out. Ugly. Plain.

The main problem is feeling overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start. Fashion comes naturally to many people, but I am not one of them. I would rather stay home than put the effort into dressing up to go out. But the thing is, I know people who are fashionable. And so I turn to my husband and a good friend to help me out. They can point me in the right direction until I figure things out myself.  

Who are the fashionistas in your life? Find them!

Once you have help, perhaps tackle your style bit by bit, to ensure not being overwhelmed and tempted to give up. Also realize that this is a continual process: not only is fashion changing, but you are changing. As a missionary, I need to prepare and anticipate a style update every time I enter a new country (with different weather, culture, and requirements of me).  Every woman has their "things" that they struggle with and that they do well in the world of fashion. Here are some areas of fashion to touch on to bring the whole picture together:

  1.             Undergarments: check out the “Perfect Gift for Missionary Women
  2.             Shoes: check out “Homeschooler’s view of Fashion
  3.             Outfits: check out “Homeschooler’s view of Fashion
  4.           Accessories: jewelry: I have not figured this out yet—would love help!
  5.           Accessories: purses/other: I have not figured this out yet—would love help!
  6.           Perfume: take time (and money) to find smells you like and that work for you.
  7.           Daily hygiene routine: what makes you feel good? Do it! Schedule the time you need. 
  8.           Makeup:  Youtube video to come soonJ
  9.           Nails: I normally go the easy route of cleaning/cutting them short every other week. In Brazil, pedi/manis are less than $5 each, but since having a baby, I can’t find the time. Oh well. Someday.
  10.        Hair: I have been lucky enough to stumble on a haircut that works for me and requires almost no prep time. I wish you the same luck. 
What parts do you do well? What parts do you need to work on first? 

Monday, February 20, 2017

President's Day Sunday Funday

Caid was gone all week at a wonderful Biblical counseling seminar, so we celebrated Valentine's Day late, but Ana Sofia and I had a good time together:

I put together 10 Myths about Brazil that Many Americans Believe--based off of one a fellow blogger did about Africa--check them both out!
Also find out what the Perfect Gift for Missionary Women is.

Other reads from the Interwebs:
1. Married in Missionary work: an interview with the author who created a good resource for couples
3. Why I think it is time to Retire the word "Missionary." An interesting perspective--I don't completely agree with it, but I do see the great difference that different people react to the word when I say it. 
4. A better way to think about self-care. LOVE THIS! from "self-care" to "resourcing." Makes such a difference in my head!

Have a wonderful week, and happy President's Day!

The Perfect Gift for Missionary Women

I have a wonderful support system as a missionary. I have people who ask me what I need and how they can help; but I often struggle with an answer.  It has taken awhile, but I have figured out the perfect gift for missionary women (and probably any woman in ministry).

After being a single missionary for a couple of years, I spoke at a church and afterwards, an acquaintance came up to me and asked me if she could take me shopping. We went to the mall and she had me go into multiple stores and pick out multiple pieces of clothing. It was incredible. I was so grateful to her! It was also humbling. And though we lost contact, this woman meant so much to me, giving her time and money to help me feel pretty and special.

My home church has this wonderful tradition: every early December they have a Christmas mission’s tea and bazaar. Us women worship together, hear and pray for our missionaries, and then buy all kinds of things made and donated by us. Pinterest on parade. All the proceeds are divided up and given as a Christmas gifts to the missionary women, who are told they MUST use it on themselves, rather than ministry.

My husband’s sisters were unsure about what to get me for Christmas, and when asked, I simply said “Underwear.” As a missionary, underclothes get used through quickly, and are often hard to find in our host country. This is something that once a year or so, I really need, and feel uncomfortable telling most people.

You may not have time to take your women missionaries shopping. You may want to get something more personal than money, but less personal than underwear. May I suggest a Victoria Secret gift card?

A Case for Victoria Secret Gift Cards for Missionary Women
1. Missionary women need underwear. Underwear is at the bottom of the list after husband, kids, ministry, and oh so many needs around you.
2. Victoria Secret underwear is really nice. I’ve shopped around, and prefer the feel, look, and how long it lasts. It is good to bless our missionaries with nice things, not leftovers.
3. Sexy with your husband is not bad. In fact, it is good. I think it is a good thing to be supporting and encouraging the intimacy of our missionary couples.
4. Sexy in the bedroom turns into (with the right focus) femininity in public. It is hard to feel feminine with old, ripped, granny panties. Just saying.
5. It makes sure your missionary woman takes time for herself, and letting her know you see HER. As a person. As a woman. It is really hard to buy anything for ministry at Victoria Secret.

Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Myths about Brazil that many Americans Believe

STOP! This piece was completely taken from another missionary in Africa who wrote, "10 Myths about Africa that many Americans Believe." It was written so well, and I realized most all of the points, slightly tweaked, were also true of Brazil, and so had to write a post of my own. But please read her article first.

1. Brazil is small (and I know their friends/missionaries in Brazil).

Brazil is about the size of the continental USA. So unfortunately, getting to the Olympics would have been like driving from Indiana to California. Just like you cannot explain Washington State and Florida with the same adjectives, I cannot explain to you Brazil in two sentences. Down south (Rio, Sao Paulo), it is much like developed countries, whereas in the Northeast, where I live, it is definitely a developing country. The same statistics cannot be used for both parts of Brazil. 

2. Brazilians are all poor.
Here you can see a wall divide between the rich high rises and the favelas. In the area we serve, 41% are living in deep poverty (meaning living off the buying power of $2.50 or less a day). But that means 59% are not. And 5-10% of of that 59% are living better than most of my friends in the USA. When trying to explain this to people, I often explain that while the USA has/is struggling with racism, Brazil has/is struggling with class-ism. 

3. Brazil is not clean. 
While I may complain of all the extra cleaning (and bugs) in Brazil, that is due to the climate, not Brazilians being dirty. In fact, most Brazilians take 2-4 showers a DAY. Mostly, we have to make sure the Short Term Mission Trippers who visit stay clean enough to not be seen as the "dirty Americans." Brazilian women work much harder and have cleaner houses (especially given some of their limitations) than I, or most of my friends in the USA, have. 

4. Brazilians do not have access to clothes or shoes.
Even just 10 years ago, this was more of an issue. While I still bring most of our clothes from the USA to Brazil, that is not because they don't have them in Brazil. It is because it is expensive in Brazil (and I am er...frugal). While many can't afford good quality clothes in Brazil, the open market offers cheaper options, and many churches/groups put together bazaars to raise funds and provide more options for needy people, without just being a handout. 
Note: athletic shoes are especially expensive in Brazil. That is why we often still invite people to donate/bring them to Brazil. 

5. Brazilians dress in rags.

Most all of our kids at Living Stones have at least one good outfit and one school uniform (including shoes). They work hard to keep those clothes nice, mostly by not wearing them often. That is why in most of our pictures, you will see many of them barefoot and in torn, old clothing: that is their play outfit. 
In other settings, I normally feel under-dressed, especially going to the mall or a wedding. Brazilians are very fashionable (this almost always includes high heels for women) and love getting dressed up and celebrating any and everything. 

6. Brazilians all live in villages. 
This is Recife, about an hour away from where we live, with almost 4 million inhabitants. Sao Paulo has about 12 million, and Rio de Janeiro has about 6 million.  

7. Village life would be perfect if white people weren't messing it up. 
This is both true and false in ways I am still figuring out. But just imagine with me the first Thanksgiving feast, and all the values that stood for: families coming for religious freedom, people coming for a new start: the new day of opportunities! Now imagine the conquistadors. Rape and pillage and take whatever you can away with you as you abandon. That was Brazil's start, and you can continue to see the habits and effects of this today. 
Much of the charity done in rural Brazil today is simply "band-aid" help, and impoverishes the souls of the people without giving any lasting help or training (This is done by all colors of people). Living Stones is working on long-term solutions through local churches and relationships that are located in these communities. We are building up children who will be able to break the cycle of poverty through the power of Jesus and all the practical work that entails. 

8. All Brazilians are brown. 
This is a random picture from Google of Brazilians. All kinds of colors. They say the USA is a melting pot, but we are much more of a tossed salad compared to Brazil. In poorer areas, there is often a larger amount of darker skinned people, unfortunately. Down south, there more "white" people. It is also interesting to note from my personal experience that being "white" is often determined by the kind of hair you have. 

9. Poverty is Brazil's biggest problem.
Poverty is a problem in Brazil, but not the biggest. I could also argue that corruption (political and in almost every other sector) is Brazil's biggest problem. Violence is also another very disturbing problem. But the biggest problem is not having a personal relationship with Jesus. 

10. Brazil has been evangelized. 
Brazil is a Catholic nation, but most of the Catholicism I have seen does not include a personal relationship with Jesus, it is just something you were born as. Evangelicalism is spreading, but unfortunately, most of that growth is in denominations that stress rules and strict obedience from the masses. 
We work with World Renewal Brazil, where the goal is to reach 200 small cities in the Northeast Brazil area in the next 20 years: these are places where the gospel, as life giving relationship, is not preached. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Normal People Sunday Funday

This morning my dad asked us, "Where are you going to church today?"

"Our church."

"Are you speaking?"

"No, we are just going. Like normal people."

This is our first "Normal people" Sunday, after being in the States for almost two and a half months. It is nice. It is relaxing. It is not normal-feeling. We are transitioning from our traveling phase (Connecticut, Ohio, and Illinois) to our training phase (sports, music, counseling for Caid, PR for Rachel).

Last week we were with one of my best friends (who I've known 20 years!) and speaking at two churches:
Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Personal emotional developmental library: books for issues that might come up
2. Poem: Back in the States: I feel this.
3. Telling your story with humility: an important read for short term mission trippers
4. Time for the church to face its racial history: "But I never had slaves" isn't an answer. 
6. Border crossing. As missionaries, we are the immigrants. 
7. Pre-furlough mind: exactly
8. Don't be afraid to take your kids with you: This made me cry. Because I want to hear these words some day. goals (or should be) for all in ministry with kids.
9. Let's talk about the ban on immigration: Last year I posted something about supporting refugees on Facebook and was 100% shocked when it was strongly reacted to--mostly disagreeing with me. I was blind-sided, as I didn't realize, as Christians, there was any other opinion we could have. We have to keep talking about this. We have to keep struggling and working and crying and praying and sharing about this. We cannot be silent. (All of the links at the bottom of this article are amazing as well, for more reading). 
10. What I learned from 50 shades darker: THAT movie came out, and thank goodness the secular world can see it is awful as well. But a friend pointed out: don't get upset about a movie about a man who takes what he wants sexually, and not be upset about a president who spoke the same way. Both must be spoken out against. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

When you've known Someone for 20 Years...

Happy Birthday Karianne!
I can't seem to find a picture of us when we met 20 years ago. Back when I was using those disposable cameras and hoping against hope at least some of the pictures would be pretty.
I did find this one from when we were 17 and doing ChalkTalks (that equipment still takes up so much space in the basement). 
And this one when we were 18 and going to save/change/run/fix the world. 
Of course that time we wore dresses, made hats, and hugged trees. 
I was looking at the scrapbook pages and letters I saved (remember when we used to write handwritten letters?) 
Of trips to the U.P. and the letter where you told me you were gonna marry a French guy. Of my friends meeting you and your friends meeting me because we share really well. Your first home in Peoria with the brick road, and your now home with the high ceiling: it has been a great 20 years. 

our 2015 visit, documented

our 2016 visit, documented

Here we are, 2017, with our kids playing together, as it should be. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Sunday Funday

While in the USA, we are so excited to get more training to better serve in Brazil. This weeks video is all in Portuguese (for our kids from Guadalajara) about us training and learning more about coaching Basketball. We are so excited to get to know more people at the Gathering Place in Greenwood! We are also working on opportunities to learn more MMA and voice/music/choir and counseling (Caid) and publishing/public resources (Rachel).
Reads on the Interwebs:
4. This helped me understand what was going on with the President's order on Immigration: