Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh Dear

We just got a call from one of our English students who said that he saw me on the news yesterday morning. Oh dear. I was secretly assuming (and hoping) that the clip had ended up on the cutting room floor. When I was a teenager I desperately wanted to be interviewed for the news. It figures that it would finally happen when I'm hot and sweaty and speaking something other than English!

Christmas in Bahia

Sorry for the quality--we were pretty far from the stage and there were LOTS of people around us.


Russ and I just took a couple of days off to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. Being so close to Christmas, our anniversary often gets neglected but we decided to take full advantage of the last of our B.K. (Before Kid) anniversaries. When we just have a short time, we often like to just take a getaway across town and explore different neighborhoods. Thanks to an AMAZING online deal (less than 25% of the regular price), we were able to stay at an AMAZING hotel in the Pelourinho that is a converted convent. We spent three relaxing days lounging by the pool, eating great food and getting to check out some spots in the Pelourinho that we don't usually get to see. (Normally when we're down there we've got visitors in tow so we go with things we know they'll like instead of trying new restaurants or museums.) On Thursday night we went to watch the city Christmas celebration with a choir made up of kids from all over the city. It was a lot of fun and I was even interviewed for the local news! I'll try to post a clip of the performance for you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Aren't you glad we're not who we were?

I've spent the afternoon deep in thought. I won't go into it all here, but it was triggered by the word that a former classmate had passed away. He was definitely not someone I was close to--in fact we got into it on several occasions. And the guy I disagreed with so bitterly a decade ago was the guy that was frozen in my mind. But as I thought about it, I realized that he probably hadn't been that guy in a long time. After all, I'm not the same person I was ten years ago. And thank God for that.

It made me think about all of you who read this blog. Some of you know OC Val. Some know Val the church secretary. Some know Val the missionary. Some just know Russell's wife, Val. And a select few of you remember Val the child or Val the teenager. More than likely, how you think of me and my personality depends on when you met me.

I look at all those mes and I realize who I've been. I've been short-tempered, quick-tongued, downright mean at times, lazy, gossipy, the list could go on. (Please resist the urge to comment with other adjectives!) Sometimes I still am those Vals.

But with each me I've been, there's been a progression. Technically I'd have to say that they haven't been individual personas but one person on a continuum. Every day I lose more and more of the old me and become more and more of who I'm supposed to be. (Not without setbacks, but we can safely call it a general trend.)

We're getting ready to start a series at church about being "Under Construction". I don't know if our members realize that we missionaries are on the same journey that they are. We fight to be who we need to be. And sometimes, it's only when we take the time to look back that we realize that we're actually succeeding. I'm no longer who I once was. God has transformed me; not just once but over and over again turning me into someone who looks like His child.

I'm a little curious. When I look at how much my life has changed--how much I've changed--I wonder what I'll look like at the end of my journey. I hope that regardless of when you came to know me, the Val you think of, the Val you'll remember, is the one that wasn't content to be who she is right now. I'm glad I've changed and can't wait to be transformed even more!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Special Message

Happy Birthday, Russell Awesome!

I'm so glad to have you in my life. You are an excellent partner in life, in ministry and in crime. We've seen the world together and are still dreaming of where to go next. You are going to be an incredible dad to our little boy. I thank God for you, baby!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas BBQ

Christmas BBQ, originally uploaded by russandval.

With Christmas comes our annual church barbecue. Here are a few pictures from the day. I'll label them later. Sleep comes first.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Dogs (and an assortment of other animals) can be trained to do a number of things. Some are working dogs, like my parents' dog/child, Carmen, who has been taking sheepherding classes. Others can perform amazing feats, like water jumping. The most interesting to me are the ones who help their handicapped owners, whether they are blind, deaf or paralyzed.

Which brings me to Samson. Yorkies are not known for their trainability. Any of you who have met Sam or heard our stories about him will know that we're content if he doesn't pee on our bed and doesn't drag out our dirty underwear when we have company. We've learned to settle. Oh, sure, we're working on a few tricks, like "sit", "give me kisses" and "get back there with that, you stupid dog!" but we have accepted his limitations.

So imagine my delight when I discovered Sam's special gift. He, like assistance dogs, can make up for his owner's shortcomings. This morning I was making cookies. I don't have a timer--I don't know why, I guess I just always forget to buy one--and remembering when to take things out of the oven is a bit of a challenge for me. And since I've been pregnant, it's hard to even remember that I have things IN the oven! So this morning I put in a batch of cookies and then Sam and I went to hang out with Russ in the computer room with the door closed to keep in the nice air conditioning. After a few minutes I got up and opened the door, thinking of something I was going to do around the house. Sam saw the open door and bolted out of the room and headed straight to the oven, where he stood until I arrived. When I checked in on the cookies, they were perfectly done.

There you have it--I have a Baking Assistance Dog. I don't think that qualifies Sam to get on airplanes free or come to the mall with me but it's useful nonetheless. He's proved his usefulness so I guess we'll keep him a little longer, even if he did make Randy and me chase him up and down the stairs yesterday, peeing all the way.

Monday, December 03, 2007

English Class Christmas Party

English Class Christmas Party, originally uploaded by russandval.

Since I finally posted about the conference, I can get on with current events. Yesterday we had our English class Christmas party. We had a great turnout this year--almost 40! It marked the end of our English classes for the next little while. Hopefully we'll be able to start up again in April--it'll all depend on the kiddo. In the meantime, we invited all the students to the church picnic this Sunday. Hopefully we can keep them coming to church things during our extended break.

In other news, I went to my first Brazilian Tupperware party the other night with the other girls from the team. The demonstrator asked if we were familiar with the products and we just laughed and started pointing out all the stuff we had grown up with. It was a fun evening though and we got to hang out with some of our regular visitors.

Tonight I made taco soup for dinner. It's amazing how some foods warm your body and your soul at the same time!

The Women's Conference

Today is the first of many catch-up days for me. Some people on the team have very regular weekly schedules but mine is more project-based. I love it that way but every so often, I end up with "the perfect storm" and hit a patch where I look three weeks into the future for days that I can sleep in. Being six months pregnant has been an interesting added dimension since I can't guarantee that I will feel up to working on a particular day or that I will have the energy to do so. But as of yesterday, I really just have one more event on the horizon--the Christmas picnic--and my responsibilities for that are relatively few. So today I get to tackle the things that have been on the back burner for a couple of weeks--updating the blog, cleaning the apartment, etc. And so I begin with the women's conference:


Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. It was a great day. I don't have a final count because there were some late in the day arrivals but we had at least 160 women. Then there were about 20 kids and our three tireless childcare workers (Russ, Randy and Tennyson). Honestly, I think it would be possible to host such a conference and have very little planned and just let the women fellowship but, of course, I couldn't let that happen!

Our theme for the day was "Connecting with God". Most of the material we used was based on the monthly series about spiritual disciplines that we've been doing with our own women. They suggested that it would be worth sharing with the other sisters in the city so we happily obliged. Mary spoke about meditation, Jennifer spoke on prayer and I spoke on fasting.


In the afternoon we had workshops. The workshops are generally of lighter stuff than the sessions. One of our members taught about makeup, another talked about (and gave!) massages and one of our regular visitors gave a workshop on healthy eating. With all of that fun stuff going on, I was surprised that many people came to my workshop about Bible study as a spiritual discipline. It was material that Alicia had originally presented and we decided to offer it as one of the workshops (thus rounding out Richard Foster's four internal disciplines).

I'm still getting great feedback about the day. We did a lot of new things, like breakout groups, but everyone seemed to enjoy them. Even though it was so much work and it took two days for my ankles to get back to their normal size, it was a lot of fun to plan and put on. I do have to admit, though, that I was quite relieved when another congregation was chosen to host next year. It was fun, but not THAT fun!

Here are a few more images from the day:

1. Jaci (the Portuguese teacher) during individual prayer time 2. The popular massage workshop 3. Jessenita meditating on the Word 4. The favors everyone took home (candles) 5. Mary, me and Jenn at the end of the day 6. Tennyson even endured a "manicure" in the name of childcare

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We had a great albeit short visit with the Quireys. We were also able to put to rest any fears that our son wouldn't have anything to wear when he showed up--the Blackwell gang had a shower for us a couple of weeks ago and sent the Quireys off with FULL suitcases.

This week is almost over and I really need it to have a couple more days. The English class Christmas party is this Sunday and I have a lot of baking to do before then. There are so many yummy treats that I'd love to share with my students. Russ and I are definitely looking forward to having our summer break from English class. We absolutely love teaching it but it gets tiring and we'll definitely enjoy the extra flexibility in our schedules for the next little while.

I promise I'm going to post about the women's conference soon. Actually, I wrote a long post about it and it got messed up when I tried to publish it. I was so frustrated I had to walk away for a while.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Where Have I Been?

Why haven't I posted for a few days? Well, let's see...

First there was this:

and the days of recovery that followed.

Then, we were hours away from the Quireys' arrival when a visa snafu delayed their plans. Rather than lose the money we had already paid and since there was nothing that could be done on our end, we waited here:

for a couple of days.

On Wednesday morning, we stopped at the airpot on our way back from the beach and picked them up. So yesterday, we got to enjoy this:

with our family and teammates.

(I promise a real post about everything soon.)
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

I got the post up first!

Val is deservedly resting her feet after an incredible 48 hours of work, ending with a successful womens city-wide converence hosted by none other than the ICOS church. There were close to 200 participants and their children; we cooked for them, kept them cool, and cleaned up after the day was over. It was by far the best event that I have been involved with (all I did was run errands and play red rover with kids). There were little ones and teens laughing, moms and grandmas praying and many people singing and learning how to be leaders in their neighborhoods. Pray that we both will recover before family arrives on Saturday. I have an amazing woman, and soon we will have an amazing baby to share my life with because of her! And now I am finished...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Friday Shall Be the New Day of Rest

Tomorrow is our areawide women's conference. Most of my waking hours for the past couple of weeks have been dedicated to it. I'm really excited about it, though. We're expecting about two hundred women. Today we took Verônica shopping for the food(oh the blessing/curse of owning a car!). She (and several dear sweet sisters) are making Bahian food for everyone. This involved getting up at 6:00 this morning to go to the big food market downtown. It was an incredible amount of food. Scratch that--it was a believable amount of food for the number of people. The unbelievable part was the amount of okra we bought. Yes, my southern friends, we eat okra here. It's a part of a couple of traditional dishes. But Brazilian okra puts yours to shame: it's about eight inches long. And we bought TWO THOUSAND okra. (Okras? Okri?)

As I write, the last of my handouts are printing. My lessons are done, the "to bring" piles are huge, and the "to do" list has shrunk. There is no more "to do"--at this point it's either done or it's not going to happen. I know there will be bumps tomorrow--things people think weren't done adequately, things people think are missing, things that really are missing due to my baby brain--but it should be a great day. And at this time tomorrow night I will be back home, in my little bed, resting up for my in-laws visit. (Truthfully, I will be resting up so I can CLEAN for my in-laws visit!)

Please pray for our conference tomorrow. Pray that the words we speak will be understood and will make an impact on the hearers. Pray that we can keep our stress levels to a minimum and sit back and enjoy the day (I'm not kidding about the sitting part--I've discovered that pregnant Val doesn't do well if she's on her feet all day!). Pray that this event brings sisters from all the other congregations closer together. Pray that I can keep that goal in my mind--it's really the point of the whole thing, but it's easy to get distracted by all the details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Great Catch

Last week on our retreat we all decided to go down to the beach. The guys' plans for bodyboarding were put on hold because the locals were out fishing. We all watched while they put out the net and then Russ and Randy helped bring it and the fish in. It made us think of all the fishermen in the Bible and we wondered how much (or little) fishing had changed since Jesus' time.


It was so interesting that I stayed out waaaay longer than I planned to and ended up with horribly sunburned feet. But it was definitely worth it!
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Thursday, November 08, 2007


The Fam, originally uploaded by russandval.

We spent the first half of this week on a team retreat. We've had the retreat at the same house for three years running. It's about 45 minutes out of town in a nice beach town. The beach is one of my favorites and the weather is always perfect.

This year was quite different than years past. There were much fewer of us--no Parkers, of course, and the Sasses are on furlough--so it was just us, the Maberys and the Porters. We were all in desperate need of some R & R.

Unfortunately we couldn't stay out there forever and yesterday afternoon Russ and I came back into town so we could make it to English class and today we resumed our normal frantic schedule. The women's conference is only a week away so it consumes a great deal of my time. Once it's done I'll have two days to get my house ready for the Quireys' arrival.

But then, we're headed back to the beach for a couple of days of family time. I'm already counting down!

p.s. We took Samson with us so he could spend a couple of days "being a dog"--barking at anything that moves, running around outside and wrestling with Nalah, the Maberys' dog. I don't think he's forgiven us for bringing him home.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Growing!, originally uploaded by russandval.

By popular demand, a picture of an increasingly pregnant Val.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I got to go to church today!

When I think of all the times growing up I said, "Do I have to go to church today?", I wish that my current self could travel back in time and slap my past self upside the head.

It was so nice to get to see everyone and worship with them. The baby got excited when I started singing. I guess it probably feels pretty weird to him. Everyone was excited to see me--I didn't keep count of how many times people touched my tummy but it was a lot. But if you're telling me how gorgeous I look pregnant or how young I look, you can touch my tummy as many times as you want!

It was a weird day at church, though. Travis and Alicia left this morning for furlough (after a crazy 24 hour move!) and Matt and Mary Virginia were on the way home, so it was just us and the Porters. We managed fairly well (I say "we" but the burden really fell to Russ and Randy, especially with the setup and take down) and it was a good reminder that it's not by our strength and ability that we get anything done.

After lunch, we headed back to the church for English class. I've been looking forward to returning to my class but today Fabio, a guy that Russ has been studying with, came to help out. He's an English teacher and offered to come help out sometimes. So Fabio taught, Russ assisted, and I visited: first with some of the girls from church who were still hanging out at the church and then with the intermediate class, who were teacherless today but were conversing in English. We sat and did our best to solve the world's problems but we never could agree whether socialism or capitalism was the answer. Oh well, maybe next time.

I'm so thankful to be back in the swing of church life!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

He Has Set the Captives Free!

Yesterday we went for our monthly doctor visit. The baby is doing well, growing nicely (a fact that is obvious to anyone who sees me!). The most exciting thing was that we found out that all my previous problems have now healed and I am free to resume "normal" life. After eight weeks of hiding I finally get to leave the house whenever I want! Thanks to everyone who went to the Father on our behalf in the past few weeks. We had some terrifying moments but He saw us through. Of course, we ask for your continued prayers for a healthy pregnancy from here on out.

Someone asked yesterday what I will do with my newfound freedom. It's honestly going to be hard to not overdo it (especially since my stamina is pretty low at this point!). Looming large is our citywide women's conference which we are hosting in about a month. It's starting to all come together but it's going to take some running around to make it happen! Also, Travis and Alicia are leaving this Sunday for their furlough--their first! (And they insist on taking Ceara with them, no matter how much we object!) They're going to be gone for over three months so it's going to be a lot of work for those of us who have been left behind. (At one point in the not-to-distant future, the Maberys will also head out on furlough, so everything will be left to us and the Porters, or should I say Randy and Russ and the two preggos! That will be even more interesting!) We're also looking forward to another visitor season starting for our family, beginning with Russ' parents in about a month. We can't wait to see them and spend more time with them. I'm making big plans for our time together (okay, so some of them involve painting the nursery!) and I'm looking forward to us getting to sit down to Thanksgiving as a family!

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I used to not get what was the big deal about shut-ins. They were always on the prayer list at church and many of them had been there for longer than I could remember. But since they weren't in the hospital, in some seriously ill state, I didn't understand why we needed to keep them in our prayers, at least not week after week. I mean, their condition hadn't changed recently and probably wasn't going to any time soon.

Then I became a temporary shut-in. Today I'm missing my sixth worship service. It gets progressively harder to be away from my church family. I feel more and more removed from regular church life and the lives of our members. And, though I have no evidence to back it up, I feel more and more forgotten. Oh, Russ comes in every week and tells me that they prayed for me and that everyone sends their best but with every day that passes that I don't actually get to be plugged into the people sending these messages, their warm thoughts have less and less meaning.

I try to come up with ways to make my Sunday morning special. I have praise music to listen to and endless podcasts of sermons. But they don't take the place of actual fellowship. The best Sunday I have had so far was when a dear teammate came and sat with me all morning instead of going to church. It was one of the most meaningful gestures I have experienced recently. We didn't do anything special that morning, but it was so nice to have someone with me at a time that I knew everyone else was together.

I think of how much that meant to me and I remember that I have only missed six weeks of church. Six weeks isn't all that much. There are many people on most shut-in lists that have been there for six years! It leaves me wondering what we can do to help our brothers and sisters who can't be with the rest of the body. These days, it's very easy for a shut-in to be able to listen to the worship service from their home. While it is certainly a blessing to have your soul fed in that way, it doesn't take the place of community. Gathering together is what church is supposed to be about, not just transmission of information.

I wish I had answers for how to help shut-ins. My experiences to date have been limited and I have the added blessing of knowing that my situation is only temporary. And in a fledgling church like ours, we don't even have any shut-ins yet (except for me!) But most churches do and my heart goes out to them today whether they are missing their sixth, sixteenth or sixtieth Sunday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Countin' Flowers on the Wall

Yesterday I went back to the doctor. My body is slowly doing what it's supposed to do but it looks like I'll have another 2-4 weeks of bedrest. As you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled to hear that but I'm glad to do what it takes to have a healthy baby.

And it is a healthy baby--the growth since our last ultrasound was unbelievable.

So yesterday was a good day. I've learned an important lesson, though, about allowing thoughts and worries to take me captive. I should be the one controlling negative thoughts and, in all my free time, I had started letting them control me. But now I've got renewed focus and am feeling very upbeat about it all.

Thanks to everyone for your continued prayers!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just Chillin'

Well, I'm still on bedrest and will be here until at least Monday, when I return to the doctor. It's been two weeks since my last ultrasound and honestly I'm having a hard time keeping my spirits up. (There is a new rule at our house though--no google-ing medical problems and symptoms. It just gets me too freaked out!) Poor Russ (or should I say Saint Russ) has been doing an excellent job of taking care of me. We appreciate all of your prayers and ask you guys to keep it up!

Hopefully I'll be blogging more now, since our wireless connection was finally fixed. (That's right--I've been without internet this whole time! Didn't think it was possible!)

Friday, August 31, 2007


Well, the last week has been very interesting. And yet it's been absolutely boring. I've been having some complications and ended up spending Saturday night in the hospital and then returning on Tuesday. We got home this afternoon. I'll be on bedrest for at least the next two weeks.

I'll spare the general public the details (but I'll be happy to email you if you really want to know). But be reassured that the baby and I are fine. My hospital stay was just for observation.

So it's been a rough week but I have come through it feeling so grateful to God for his goodness, kindness and mercy, and almost as grateful to Russ, who truly showed his love and partnership!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Must Read Post of the Year!

In my head, I've started writing this post many times. But now that it's time to write it, I've lost all cleverness. So I'll just come out and say it: I'm pregnant. (I'm pausing while you squeal!) I'm 14 weeks along, so that puts me into my second trimester (time flies!) I'm due on Feb. 22.

So there's a big part of the reason this blog has been so quiet lately. The biggest thing going on in my life was something that I wasn't quite ready to share. But now you know! And you can be excited along with us!

Monday, August 13, 2007


...Aubry Nicole Mabery, or Bree as she will be known. She was born in the very last minutes of Sunday night (which was kind of cool because it was Father's Day here!)

Here's the happy family (minus Nalah the dog but they don't allow her in the hospital!)
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EDIT: For those of you in the Mabery-Sirmon fan club, there are more pictures of Aubry if you click HERE. Or include your email address in your comments and I can send you some more pictures (we took quite a few today!).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Still Nope

We still don't have electricity at the building so we had another dark Sunday. It was our farwell Sunday for the interns, which we celebrated with a special children's program and ice cream. (Very nice after sitting in the heat!) The week was spent (not by me, fortunately) in rather strong talks between the electric company and our building owners about who will be paying for the repairs. Thankfully the couple that owns our building are an electrical engineer and a lawyer so they were able to take on the battle. Everything seems to be resolved now and work should start tomorrow.

And the Mabery baby (affectionately known as "Babery") still hasn't arrived. We're all on pins and needles and think it will be really soon. Any time the phone rings at an odd time we get all excited. One of these times it will be "the call" and we'll have a new teammate!

Monday, August 06, 2007

I must just be out of the habit of blogging. My lack of posting certainly hasn't been because there hasn't been anything going on because there's always something going on. But until I get back in the swing of things, I'll try to just give you little posts more frequently.

Yesterday was an interesting day. As Russ explained, we are currently having "technical difficulties" at church. So yesterday's worship was low-tech. We printed up song sheets and set up the chairs in the corner of our main room right beside the doors. (We thought about meeting in the lobby but it was just too hot!) We had a flashlight available for taking to the bathroom. Alicia and I kept the kids in the center of the room the whole time. I think it was too hot for them to sit and focus. So instead we colored and made fans. I asked one of the little boys to give the fan that he had made to "someone older", thinking he would take it to at least one of our middle aged people, if not someone elderly, to help with the heat. But Jean had his own idea and he gave it to Heather, the intern! (Sorry, Heather, I forgot to tell you that yesterday!)

We hope that we will have power by next Sunday but we're really not sure. I feel a little bad for Heather and Laura since this is their last week with us. I guess, though, that this is a pretty realistic way to end an internship. Sometimes life is like this and you have to make do in less than ideal circumstances!

Friday, August 03, 2007

An Exceptional Week

Many things have happend to us as the winter season ended, and August began. We have taught dozens of English students, and my private classes are going well. I was teaching early Thursday morning, when the electricity was restored with a bang. I ran outside to see a shower of white sparks coming from our meter on the front of the building. As the employees from the neighboring store ran outside, I unloaded the fire extinguisher into the wall. The flames caused the meter to explode and then melt onto the ground. Nothing entered the building, and I was glad to see a city employee disconnect the main line from the transformer a minute later. He had been working less than 50 feet away on a side street.

Our problems continued that afternoon when the city company came and tried to connect the power directly to the circuit board. This caused the power strip for our sound board to catch on fire, and every light in the kitchen blew out at once. Now we have cancelled a membership class, youth gathering, and potluck this Sunday because of the power problem. We hope the situation will improve on Monday. We ask for your prayers; it is possible that our insurance policy might help (also the persistence of the building owners- a tough lawyer and her husband, an electrical engineer). We could not make one step forward without God's care. Have a great weekend; we won't give up! The high to balance out the low was Tuesday afternoon, when I took my new car and carried 15 kids to a VBS taught by Heather and Laura. It was an awesome day. Peace, and we love you bunches.


Stormy, originally uploaded by russandval.

I just wanted to take a minute to show everyone that the weather isn't always perfect here. Okay, sure, this is one of a handful of days that was like this but still--we'd had plans to spend the day outside! The weather didn't stop us, though, and we had a great day up at Praia do Forte with the intern crew, the Sasses, the Maberys and Mary's parents.

(That's right, folks--Mary's mom and dad have arrived. Baby Watch 2007 has begun. My guess at the due date was several days ago but Russell's is the latest so maybe he'll win!)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

R & R!

Lately it seems like everything is taking two weeks to actually happen. For example, after two weeks of rescheduling meetings, Mary Virginia and I finally met on Thursday to go over some stuff. (She is quite anxious to get all her ducks in a row at this point...that kid could show up at any second, though rumor has it that she may have a few weeks left!) The other big thing that kept getting moved was a day at the beach with Travis and Alicia. On Friday we loaded up the car, headed up north of town and spent a day lounging under the palm trees. (See, Stacey? We celebrated your birthday without you!) It was great to have the car so we could go to beaches that the buses can't get us to and also so we could lug Travis' barbecue. We brought chicken and steaks and a great supply of vegetables. Later Russ bought some shrimp from some vendors that came by. There wasn't a speck of food left when we were done. (We had help, though: we shared our food with several people who stopped to ask us for money.) It was the first day that we'd spent at the beach since we got back from furlough and we left swearing that it wouldn't be that long until we went again. I guess that considering the way things have been going lately we should go ahead and schedule it for two weeks from now--then we could go in a month or so!
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Life

I am well aware that I've been a total slacker since we got back from furlough. It's hard to believe that it's only been a few weeks! The truth is, I've only been a slacker with respect to blogging. So for those of you who frantically check this blog each morning or evening to see if I've updated, I'm sorry. (And may I recommend an RSS reader to simplify your life?)

But there has been a lot going on here. The "kids" left on Monday and we've been recovering from their stay. (Also, I've been recovering from a stomach bug that showed up right after we got home from taking them to the airport!) I've been trying to get all the pictures on Flickr (online photo albums--just click the word Flickr to get to our pictures). But here are a few pictures that I wanted to share with you:
Meet Clerlhan (don't worry, we can't really pronounce it either!). She is one of our LST students and had been studying with Kathryn, from Auburn.
We were so excited to welcome her into the family of Christ! It was an interesting baptism--the first time Russ had done one in the ocean (not to mention the fact that it was pitch black!)--and with the combination of members, LST students and the Auburn kids it was a bilingual event.

Clerlhan's family is spiritist so they are really not happy with her decision. Keep her in your prayers as she begins this new walk.

And then there's Whitney! Whitney was part of the campaign from Auburn. She had never been baptized but after spending a lot of time in the Word, she came to the conclusion that this was what God wanted for her.
Her baptism was in the ocean, too, but in the afternoon so the pictures are much better. We were excited to get to share this special moment with Whitney!

More updates to come!
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Waiting for Normal

I'm home alone. I think it's the third time I've been home alone since we got back from furlough (over a month ago). While many of you who know me may know that at times, being alone is torture for me, I've started to really enjoy it. Before we left on furlough, there were many days that were just me and Sam. But since we've been back and have had "the kids" at our house there just haven't been many of those alone times.

I keep waiting for life to get back to normal. This is probably a lesson that those of you who are 50 or 40 or even who have actually crossed over to the big 3-0 have already learned but it's new to me. I don't think normal is coming.

I spent the last part of furlough eager to get back to normal life. I got back home to the chaos of the Auburn campaign and helping the Parkers move and looked forward to everything calming down. Now I'm looking forward to Monday, when the dear, sweet "kids" will no longer be in my home.

But today I realized that after that, we'll still have the interns here. And in a month (or less, as I have predicted), Matt and Mary Virginia will have their baby. Not too long after that, other people will head out on furlough. And...and...and...

I don't think normal is coming.

So I'm trying to figure out how to make peace with today, just how it is, and how to find peace in days that are absolutely insane. Even if I can't get my quiet time, I can be quieted. That's a challenge, especially for someone for whom quiet doesn't come easily. But if I keep waiting for normal, I'll be waiting forever and I'll miss out on all kinds of great days that weren't normal but were wonderful nonetheless.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

It's been a good week...

Sunday was spectacular, not counting those we miss sharing the work with. We had a great praise service, then Val prepared a huge lunch and taught 26 women about fasting. The English class taught by Travis and Matt was even more packed that afternoon. We have enjoyed thrilling soccer games (we won 4-1), and long days regrouping after the Parkers decided to go. Today begain with an hour of body boarding at high tide. It was even better than it sounds!

Running with the dog, cycling to the lighthouse or laughing with a student over ping pong- it all makes the days more fun. We miss our friends, but our saddest times are for the hugs we cannot send over email. Please send big hugs our way, because we need them. We loved all the laughs we shared back in the States, and now we want to keep sharing how we feel. There is lots of work in the coming months, and we accept it gladly. Keep on truckin!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Today life went on. I got up and went into the building for a devo with the team and the Auburn crew. I spent a couple of hours sorting through some boxes of stuff that the Parkers left. I went for my weekly mentoring time with the interns. I took Caitlin (one of my "daughters") for a manicure and ended up getting a haircut. (A dangerous decision--emotional haircutting--but I had been wanting a bit of a change anyway and it really is a small change!) I watched one of the Auburn girls get baptized in the ocean. I taught my English class. In between it all, I worked on my class for this Sunday. A busy day. But just the kind of day I needed to realize that life really will (and needs to) go on. What I am doing here is important and I love my job. Sure, I wish that some of my favorite people were still here doing it with me, but it's all still okay without them.
I'm okay. I really am. Just a little sad right now. I just don't want you guys to worry too much!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today was the day I have been dreading. We said goodbye to the Parkers a couple of hours ago. I really don't have many words to describe how I am feeling right now. It hurts. A lot. We've had to say a lot of goodbyes in our lives, especially in the past couple of years but this one is unparalleled. Saying goodbye to them also means saying goodbye to the dreams we shared with them and what we thought our lives here would be like for at least five years. But we did have two great years with them and are so grateful to have shared any part of this journey with them. I'm going to wrap this up since I've started the waterworks again but I just wanted to share so you guys could be praying for them as they travel and get re-settled and for us as we try to figure out what our new life looks like.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One day in the saga to buy a car

I want to share (at my own expense, not the country I call home) a little ditty about the final day of transferring a title from a friend's name to my own. This day was the culmination of several hard-headed attempts to do it my way. All others failed.

I awoke at 7AM to take a taxi to the DETRAN (i.e. DMV) with what I thought was an adequate amount of time and documents. At 8AM, the nice security guard informed me that I had more things missing than BMW in a chop shop. I called my friend Keith to bring the car as fast as possible to have it inventoried. Then I walked for about an hour to an internet cafe to print off a bill to prove my address. Keith and I met at DETRAN around 10AM where the car was checked for serial numbers and working lights. Having done this, I stood in line with a number while the office attempted to get reconnected with the national network. At 12PM, the long line sighed as the fax began to print off documents. I received confirmation of my paperwork as well as a 60 reais processing fee. Unexpectedly, I was told to pay it and THEN the sales tax on the car which was more than I could extract from an ATM in one day.

I called my wife who was at the beach, and asked if she had cash. She directed me to a location (by taxi) where I got exactly the amount needed. It was suprising; it was also more than my rent. With all the bills paid, I received my tag and told my story to the clerk. She said my wife would love the car. I felt that the whole office would burst into clapping had there been less witnesses. I ate a ham sandwich at home around 2:30, and a good time was had by all.

On another note, I baptized a student last Tuesday. She is very happy and wants to tell all her friends about it. Let's pray she does. Tchau for now.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back to Brasil

It felt strange to think about all the miles we drove, and all the times I listened to NPR in the States. I wanted to thank every one who put gas in the car and hugged us as we left. We still feel so close to you. The sun is shining today, and a breeze is keeping everything cool. There are so many changes happening this month, and not all of them are easy. Pray for us and the rest of our church as we go out to be Jesus to many new friends. Pray that the Parkers return will help us all keep growing. We would not be here without all of you out there! I know that your friendship is bigger than the plane ride it took to get here. Que saudades (we miss you). RQ

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I am just about unpacked now. I probably wouldn't have so much done if we didn't have LST workers staying with us. It's fun having some new people around, even if they keep calling me "old" and "mom". I think it will be a fun few weeks. Our summer interns arrived yesterday. There was some confusion about what flight they would be on so we ended up at the airport for over four hours. But they finally got in and we're glad they're here to help out.

We need the extra help these days. Mary Virginia has been on bed rest for a month now and we don't know if she's going to be back up until the baby comes in August. While we were gone, everyone had to work so hard they're all feeling a little burned out. We're happy to be back to lighten the load.

I promised to tell you about our other team news but it's news that's hard to share. Keith and Stacey have decided to move back to Oklahoma. (They insist on taking their kids with them, too.) We're sad to see our dear friends go but we want them to do what is best for their family. Right now, that is to be back in the U.S. So amid all the chaos of interns, LST and us getting resettled, they're coming in this weekend to start packing. It's going to be an emotional time so I may blog a lot about it or I may pull inside my shell and say very little. Just be patient with me.

On a happy note, there was a baptism the Friday before we got home. AnaMaria is the friend of one of our members, Jaciara, and has been studying with her and Mary for a little while now. We're sad we missed that moment but we're glad to have a new sister!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Getting Settled

Our suitcases lie in various corners of the house, piles of clothes cover every available surface and every place I look I find more books to try to cram in our bookshelves.

I hate unpacking.

Packing is filled with anticipation: though tedious, it is bearable because you know that upon completing the task you will be rewarded with a trip. Unpacking is quite the opposite: it feels like pennance for the good time we had.

And what a time it was. I would love to be able to thank every person who helped make our furlough such a blessing to us, but I would surely forget someone (or many someones). I will just make some general thank yous:

-Thanks to everyone who let us stay in their home--all of you who put up with our late-night comings and goings and sometimes went for days without actually seeing us.

-Thanks to everyone who fed us, either at your home, your church or your favorite restaurant. I'm trying not to blame you for the weight I gained!

-Thanks to everyone we didn't get to eat with or stay with for your patience and understanding. There just wasn't enough time!

-Thanks to everyone who casually slipped us money. We promise we didn't spend it all on our many Target runs!

-Thanks to everyone who took us on shopping sprees. You sure know the way to my heart!

-Thanks to everyone who came up to us with hugs and encouraging words. Even if you guys don't keep in touch with us like you'd like to, we appreciate whatever support you give us!

-Thanks to everyone who kept us in their prayers. You made our trip a success!

Even now, I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. My mind is running a million directions at this point, between unpacking, the LST campaign and a major change to the team. (I'll blog more about that later.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

From the Road: Winnipeg

When last I wrote, we were in Blackwell recovering from the graduation festivities. Since then, we drove to Branson with the Quireys for a quick vacay, drove back to Blackwell, to Stillwater and then on to Winnipeg. We started the week with Russell's parents and are ending it with mine. Our days in Branson were (generally) warm and sunny; when we got out of the car in Winnipeg it was COLD. I have had several conversations with people leading up to this trip, reassuring them that the weather would be nice at this time of year but we seem to have arrived in the middle of a cold snap. It's par for the course at this point.

We'll try to update more in the next couple of days but for now I'm going to enjoy some time with my folks!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

He Did It!

This weekend we celebrated with Russell's brother, Matt, as he graduated from Oklahoma State University.

Matt on the Jumbotron in Gallagher-Iba

The Quirey family

Russ and me, lookin' all purty
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Friday, May 04, 2007

From the Road: Frisco, TX

We did it! We made it through the month of April. It was our heavy travel month but we've now reached the halfway point. Here are some stats for you:

Beds slept in (to date): 12

Flights: 9

Sunday morning sermons given: 3

I would tell you how many miles we've put on the car but it's outside and frankly I am quite tired, not to mention the skunk that is lurking in the front bushes. Last night we got in from North Carolina much later than expected due to some major storms in the Dallas area. I can still feel the motion of the plane bouncing.

We're staying with Ron and Georgia, our friends who work with Continent of Great Cities. Georgia took me shopping today--a dangerous trip to Ikea and Sam Moon--but I showed great self-control and only bought a little. There's so much stuff here in the US that we just don't have access to in Brazil. We're fighting the urge to buy buy buy but it is difficult since every time we watch tv, open a magazine or even walk through WalMart we are innundated with messages about how the latest and greatest product will improve our lives. Ikea was a tough one for me. I'm not even letting myself near The Container Store. I try to remind myself before I go into a store what things I have pre-determined that I need but I inevitably get distracted by something else. The fact that we have to carry whatever we buy back with us does help but the temptations still are strong, especially for a recreational shopper like me!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

From the Road: Myrtle Beach, SC

Well, technically we're not in Myrtle Beach, we're south of the crazy tourist stuff but we've been in several different small towns (house in one, church in another, restaurant in yet another), none of which most of you have heard of, so it's just easiest to say Myrtle Beach. This was the leg of the trip of which I was most uncertain. We had only been to the Grand Strand church once, on a Wednesday night, three years ago. We just didn't know very many people. But we received a very warm welcome and have had a wonderful time.

In the morning we'll pick up a rental car and make our way up to Raleigh to see my Grandma Turner. I have so many memories of our family vacations to Raleigh and I've loved being able to visit as an adult with Russ. We'll get back to Texas on Wednesday where we'll be reunited with our car and the rest of our luggage! Then it's on to Oklahoma for Matt's graduation!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From the Road: Denison, TX

It was really hard to leave Athens. We had so many great relationships there. We're already talking about "next time".

Last night we drove through very heavy rains to make it to Basil and Rachel's house. It's great to see them again. Tonight we went to church with them and got to sneak in their worship team rehearsal and just sing for an hour. It was wonderful.

Tomorrow we get to repack and head back into Dallas. Friday morning we will fly to Myrtle Beach. I can't believe that we have only been on the road for three weeks. It seems like much longer because we've been so many places and seen so many people. We're sleeping in our eighth bed tonight. I won't list a rating of all the beds--we can't seem to agree on what sort of bed is most comfortable, plus we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We're just so grateful for all the hospitality we have been shown.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

From the Road: Abundantly Fed in Athens

It's a relatively standard sitcom plot: the couple overcommits themselves on Thanksgiving and ends up running from meal to meal. After each meal, they are progressively fuller but know they need to make an efort at the next place.

I can now relate.

We've had a wonderful time in Athens and we've felt so loved and taken care of. Especially when it comes to food. These ladies can cook. The ones that haven't cooked for us have taken us to the best restaurants. I'm going to miss all these great meals (and the company we have shared them with!) but my waistline sure won't!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Better Luck Next Time!

Last night was a fun change of pace. We drove over to Arlington with our friend Kody and Kristie to watch the Rangers get clobbered by the A's. I mean, the plan was to watch the game...the sound defeat was unexpected. We missed the first inning but the second was the inning to watch: the A's were 8-0. It all went downhill from there. But we had a great time and ate WAY too much ballpark food. (Though I figure if you only make it to a game once every few years, who cares if you have a hot dog, cheese fries, popcorn and some cotton candy? I *did* drink water the whole time, so I wasn't all bad!) We only have a few days left in Athens and then it's back to our breakneck travel pace. These few days in the same place have been nice!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

From the Road: Athens, TX

This week it's been hard not to feel like darkness is winning. The news from Virginia broke our hearts and I continued to be sickened by the blame game everyone is playing. Evil happens. Darkness exists in our world. Bad things will always happen until Christ returns.

But we have had some glimmers of light, too, during our stay in Athens. We have had the joy of watching three special baptisms. Sunday, we watched one of the elders at church baptize his elderly mother. "Don't ever stop praying," he said to the congregation. Tonight after church, we watched as a member of the youth group and her mother put on Christ. What a beautiful moment for family to share! I count these as victories in our war against the darkness.

It has been wonderful to be reunited with our friends and family at Eastern Hills. We didn't get as much time as we would have liked with them before we moved to Brazil but we have some wonderful connections with people. We have spent the past few days getting loved on and absolutely spoiled. I'm doing my best to avoid gaining the "furlough fifteen" but I don't know how much longer I can keep it up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

After a very long weekend, a little rest

The last 3 days have been tough. We saw our sponsors for the first time (during a tornado warning) followed by a dinner and hail in Dallas. We spent a long day (8 to 5) telling them about all the things the church had experienced in the past year. Then we drove back to Athens and slept a bit before preaching today! Now we can relax and share some meals with our friends here without another move for at least a week. It seems like we are a month into this trip, and it has barely begun! Many of our sponsors were very encouraging, despite a handful of problems and a depressed exchange rate. We prayed and shared hugs with them all. To those working on our behalf in Bahia: you are being held up in prayer! Keep on truckin. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. We promise to give you our very best effort. We love you, and good nite!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome Home

There are so many things we miss when we are in Brazil. We often talk about the various things our mouths crave or experience that we wish we could have. Then there are the things that we forget we miss. Last week's snow, for example, was a welcome (though cold) treat. Tonight we had a chance to be reunited with another meteorological friend.

We are in Dallas for the Sponsoring Church Workshop. We were resting a bit before the dinner tonight and flipped on the TV. A spring storm was headed our way and it looked to be pretty bad. We decided to head out a few minutes early to try to beat it to the church. As we stepped out the door of the hotel, the tornado sirens went off. I spent long enough living in Oklahoma to be completely unfazed by that fact and we headed off to the church. After a brief parking lot conversation about whether it was better to be parked under the large tree or far away from it, we walked inside through light rain. Two minutes later, large hail started. We chatted with everyone for about five minutes and then were herded into the safest room in the building. After a little bit, we were back on schedule and had a nice dinner. Now I'm sitting in the hotel lobby listening to details of all the damage on the TV news.

I didn't know that I could miss tornadoes. And really, it's not tornadoes I miss--it's the adventure of it all. I have some fun memories of hanging out in the Mayfair basement. I know that Russ has even more tornado memories--they were such a big part of his childhood. Even though storms like this are scary and do a lot of damage, the fact that we had tornadoes tonight makes me smile a little bit. It feels like God has been using the weather to say, "Welcome home!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From the Road: Las Cruces

Learning Portuguese has helped us understand more Spanish. Driving around town, I can figure out what a lot of things mean. But learning Portuguese has absolutely killed any chance we had of pronouncing Spanish correctly. What comes out is such a jumbled mess that always errs on the side of Portuguese. And being in Las Cruces we have a lot of opportunities to use Spanish words (yes, most of those words are enchilada and queso but I'm still having trouble!)

We are having a great time with Susan and Joel. Yesterday Susan and I had some good sister time (read: shopping) and Russ and Joel went hiking in the mountains. (I'm glad that our husbands share the love of adventure that we wives just don't have. We tolerate adventure, sometimes we even participate in it. We just don't live for it.)

Tomorrow we hit the road again but I'm trying not to think about it. It's really easy for me to get so caught up in what's next that I don't enjoy what's now. Hmm...I think that's true most of the time, not just on furlough. Today should be easy to enjoy: we're going to the farmer's market and to bookstores. I miss bookstores so much--it's going to be hard not to overindulge!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

From the Road: Blackwell, OK

The snow finally stopped. It didn't stick but it was quite a sight. Our poor bodies are chapped from head to toe. I keep buying new moisturizers and chapstick, trying to find one that will do me some good. Everyone promises that it will be warmer by Monday but on Monday we are headed somewhere (theoretically) warmer. (Though at this point I have heard so many promises about weather that I'm not sure that I won't need my jacket.) We've now been to Oklahoma City and Stillwater. We've eaten at Ted's and Eskimo Joe's and too many other places to mention. In fact, tonight I had my first homecooked meal since we arrived.

I'm sitting in the church office in Blackwell using the secretary's computer (shhh...don't tell!) while my mother-in-law gets ready for Sunday School in the morning. I thought I'd take advantage of this opportunity to catch up on my email and fill everyone in on what is next. So here you go--the infamous schedule:

Monday, April 9--to Las Cruces, NM (sorry, Ginger, we're flying)

Thursday, April 12--to Dallas, TX for the Sponsoring Church Workshop

Saturday, April 14--to Athens, TX

Wednesday, April 25--to Denison, TX

Friday, April 27--to Myrtle Beach, SC (yes, we have supporters there, we're not just going on vacation!)

Monday, April 30--to Raleigh, NC

Wednesday, May 4--to Dallas, TX

Thursday, May 5--to Stillwater, OK for Russell's brother's graduation (those who know him will appreciate the significance of this event!)

Monday, May 7--to Branson, MO

Friday, May 11--to Winnipeg, Canada

Thursday, May 17--to Wichita, KS

Saturday, May 19--to Oklahoma City, OK

Saturday, June 2--back to Brazil!

(We're going to sneak up to Tulsa at some point, too, but we're not exactly sure when yet.)

Just typing that schedule exhausted me. As you can well imagine, we need your prayers to get through this marathon. Please pray for good health, lots of energy and safe travels. Pray that we get to see exactly who we need to see and that we say all that needs to be said. Please pray that we make the best use of all our resources, especially time and money. And finally, please join us in thanks to God that we get to make this trip. We already have had such wonderful time with our friends, family and supporters.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Notes from the Road

This is just a quick note to say that we arrived safely in Oklahoma. This weekend is Stillwater & Blackwell (Oklahoma) and then Monday we're off to Las Cruces. I really promise I will post our schedule (RYLAN!) but I need to be staying somewhere with a computer to do that. Right now I am borrowing the computer of someone who should be working.

Let me just say, it is COLD. It's snowing today in Oklahoma. I only have two pairs of long pants with me and one pair of closed-toed shoes. Brrr...

Monday, April 02, 2007

All Kinds of Things

Don't ask if we're packed yet. We're not.

We just dropped Samson off at Travis and Alicia's. Their daughter, Ceara, loves him. Their cats do not. We're confident they'll find a way to work it out.

Yesterday we had our first anniversary celebration at church. We set a new record--102 people. Last year, our inaugural service was mostly brothers and sisters from the other Churches of Christ in the city. This year there were only a couple of people from those congregations. The crowd was made up of our members, their friends, family and neighbors, and dozens of contacts we have generated: English students, language teachers, doctors. Three visitors stand out in my mind:
1. Vivian--Vivian was one of the LST students. She studied while the campaign was here and then she and I studied together for a while. Once the English classes started up again after summer break, she came back with several friends. Yesterday she visited our worship for the first time. Our perseverence paid off.

2. Palmira's husband--Palmira is a sister from one of the other congregations who visits us occasionally. She's an older woman who has dealt with a lot of tough things this year. Yesterday when she walked in the door she was beaming. Her husband came to church with her for the first time ever.

3. Zoraide's nephew--Zoraide is another LST student. She and I have spend many hours together. She's been coming to group classes again, too, and has started bringing her nephew with her. She explained to us that he won't come with her to her church (she is Seventh-Day Adventist) but he was willing to come to ours. We're happy to have him.

(My apologies that I don't have names on the tip of my tongue. Yesterday was a flood of names and faces, not to mention the fact that my brain is full of travel plans!)

If you were to ask my teammates which visitors stood out to them, they would probably tell you different stories--stories of persistence paying off--but with the same sense of amazement that I have. It is incredible to see what God has done in one year.

We had a potluck lunch after worship and gave people the opportunity to share how ICOS has touched their lives. Many tears were shed. We were reminded of how many life transitions we have been able to be a part of--births, deaths, weddings and new and renewed commitments to Christ. Above all, people spoke of the love they feel as part of the true family that exists there. There aren't words I would have rather heard right before I left for furlough. God has created something wonderful at 35 Holy Spirit Street. It's something that people want to be a part of and, even better, want the people they love to be a part of. To God be the glory!

And that brings me back to tomorrow. We leave just after lunch for the big trip. It's unbelievable to think that we will be gone for two months. When I look at our schedule I wonder if we'll be able to pull it off. There are so many people that make what we do possible and we want to thank them all personally. If you're not one of the people we're going to see, let me tell you right now--THANK YOU! We are utterly dependent on the actions of God and other people. Without people writing checks, writing emails, sending candy and praying for us, we wouldn't be here. Even the littlest bit makes such a big difference for us. We thank you and the family of ICOS thanks you, too.

And now, off to pack!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Go ahead, ask me about my day.

Today I've got a good story.

This afternoon we had to go to a meeting at Travis and Alicia's. They have offered to watch Samson while we're gone but they have two cats. Today seemed a perfect opportunity for the big meeting with the cats, too.

When we got there, Randy, Jenn, Matt and Mary were all in the lobby waiting for the elevator. It arrived after a minute or two and we all got in. It was a tight fit, with the dog crate and all, since the elevator is only about 4x6 at most. The door closed and then nothing. we made sure we'd pushed the button and tried pushing other buttons.

All of a sudden we went up. Just a little. Then the door opened and...there was a big concrete wall there.

At the very bottom you could see the door that goes to the lobby but only about a foot of it. And here in Brazil, there are generally doors on every floor of the elevator that are locked and only unlock when the elevator arrives on the floor. It just had some little holes in it.

So it was the six of us and Sam. None of the buttons worked. We tried pushing the alarm button and the button to call the doorman. Nothing.

Matt figured out that his cell phone worked so we called Alicia and told her to call downstairs. While he was on the phone, someone in the lobby opened the door to get on and discovered us.

In the minutes that followed there was all sorts of opening the door to check on us and passing messages on--we're calling the repair man, the repair man is coming, the repair man is stuck in traffic, etc.

We passed everyone's bags through to make more space and eventually Travis showed up and we gave him Sam. (The dog crate didn't fit through the hole so we just put it up on its size, effectively doubling the available floorspace.)

Eventually some genius downstairs figured out that it would be better if they left that door open so we could, you know, BREATHE! (There was a fan in the elevator, but after all, we were six people stuck in a tiny elevator. In the tropics.)

After even more time, one of the maintenance guys brought an electric fan and stood there holding it up for us. that helped a LOT.

Anyway, we were stuck in there over 50 minutes, all told. We had a can of Coke Zero which I sacrificed for the team, passing it around. (we also had our lunch: a frozen pizza that I had cooked but we hadn't had time to eat so we just brought it with us but the pizza was sausage and onions and didn't seem like a good thing to eat in the situation so we passed it with the bags.)

Finally we were get to walk the seven flights of stairs up to Travis and Alicia's!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Don't we clean up nicely?

We're on the home stretch before furlough though it's hard to feel like it. Yesterday we had another women's ministry event. I procrastinated again (but at least I procrastinated with a partner this time!) and ended up with way too much last minute work. I'm going to get the hang of it one of these days. So I'm recovering from that today. PLUS this weekend is our ICOS one-year anniversary celebration so we have a lot of work to do getting the building ready. I'm trying to preserve my energy because our furlough is marathon length but at a sprint speed. We have to hit the ground running with little time for recovery. We only have a couple more things to finalize and then I'll post a schedule for you...hopefully within a day or two. It's on the to-do list, along with about a million other things. And yet here I am, blogging. I guess that's my cue to jump up and start getting stuff done. More later!
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Thursday, March 22, 2007


Hm...there's a lot about the past couple of weeks of my life I wish I could write about. They've been some of the toughest times ever. And yes, I am just going to leave you to sit and wonder about what's been going on. Sorry. But here are the good things:

- Everything is going to be okay.
- I am making great strides in my fight to leave my pride behind and be more open about my weakness.
- Our furlough is going to be at just the right time.
- Our mighty God is hard at work in the lives of His children; loving us, refining us and holding us in the shadow of His wing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Next month you have a rare opportunity. You can turn a guilty pleasure into a way to help others. Plus, those adorable kids my brother works with will be there!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Team Banquet

Team Banquet, originally uploaded by russandval.

Tonight we got together to celebrate the past two years on the field. It's hard to believe that as of tomorrow we will have been here for two years. How time flies. Maybe I'll sit and reflect on that some time soon. But not tonight- I'm exhausted. I spent last week at a conference for missionary women put on by Continent of Great Cities. A certain roommate (who will remain nameless but is a teammate and was a former co-worker and member of Mayfair with me) kept me up until all hours of the night!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Everything but the kitchen sink

I finally saw one. After surfboards, puppies, and ice cream carts made it onto the bus with me, somebody brought a kitchen sink (a big one) on their commute to work. They even asked someone to hold it while they paid their fare! Random, but so am I. On my walk yesterday, people were handing out flyers for a weight-loss company. It was called "Hunger", even more ironic. I thought about people around me trying to sweat off ten pounds, while millions wanted nothing more than the chance to be overweight. It seems crazy and unfair, and it probably is. Take care of each other, and try to share your leftovers with those who need 'em.  Peace.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


  For those of you keeping track, which I know none of you are, today marks the nine year anniversary of when Russ and I started dating. I know many of you who read this are older than me, so I won't talk about how old that makes me feel. Instead I will just say what a blessing it is to have spent almost a decade with Russ. As you can tell by the picture (which was taken that first semester) we were pretty young when we started dating so we've both done a lot of growing up since then. In those nine years, we've been around the world and had many ups and downs but every path has helped us grow personally, in our relationships with each other and closer to God. I'm so thankful that God brought Russ into my life and helped us to see beyond the people we were at the time to the people we would become.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Women's Ministry

Gisele and Irla, originally uploaded by russandval.

We've been wanting to get a women's ministry off the ground for a while now and we finally decided to just do something. It's easy to get caught up in plans and dreams and never actually get started. At the missionary conference, I realized that I needed to stop dragging my feet so one day during church, I asked Alicia (the other half of the women's ministry) if we could have an event in February. I was running the slides that day so I quickly made an announcement slide and we started advertising it. At that point I really had no plan.

To be honest, I didn't have much of a plan until Saturday and even then it was sketchy. I didn't share the workload so I ended up stressed out and wandering around the grocery store, trying to figure out what to feed people. We can't have an oven at church and our microwave doesn't hold big pans so we're always limited as to what we can make. I was blessed when one of my "maybes" for the menu was on sale.

Saturday night, Russ and I got sick. We don't know if it was the chinese food we'd ordered that night or gripe (technically the flu but what ends up being the catch-all word when someone is sick). Sunday morning Russ wasstill too sick to go to church but because I had refused to share the responibility, I had to go. I felt much better, though, which really makes me suspect the sweet and sour chicken.

God got me through the day, though, and made everything run smoothly. (One exception was the mocha cake, which as Lauren kept reminding me was "ugly", but we cut it up before anyone saw it so no one was the wiser.)

About twenty women of all ages stayed. After lunch, I had them fill out a survey asking what they would like the women's ministry to be. Then we made salvation bracelets which have different color beads to symbolize our paths to salvation. I gave them a little card with Bible verses for each color so if someone asks about their bracelet, they have answers ready.

I think we're going to try to have activities every month now. I guess I'll only get to go to one more before we leave for furlough. Maybe this time I'll share the work!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Press Release

*******PRESS RELEASE*******

Russ and Val's North American Tour

April 3-June 3

Cities to include:
Blackwell, OK
Oklahoma City, OK
Tulsa, OK
Athens, TX
Dallas, TX
Raleigh, NC
Myrtle Beach, SC
Las Cruces, NM
Wichita, KS
Winnipeg, MB

We're going to try to see as many people as we can, but we can't see you if you don't let us know how to. So if you're interested in seeing us, please drop us a line and we'll figure out something!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tinkles and Transgressions

This morning I sat out on the balcony, enjoying a cup of chai and an okay book, and watched Samson walk up, stand next to his pee spot (kind of like a litter box) and tinkle. Beside it. I said his name in a disapproving way and he immediately ran back inside and hid under the couch. He knew why he was in trouble. He knows exactly where we want him to go but sometimes he can't be bothered. It frustrates me to no end because sometimes he goes days without a slip-up. He knows.

Then I realized that I'm like that, too. I know exactly what God wants from me and yet so often, like the dog, I can't be bothered. I wonder if He looks at me messing up, either doing something I shouldn't or not doing something I should, and sighs just like I do with Samson. I wonder if He thinks, Why?!? You know better! I thought you had worked this one out, put it behind you! Are you ever going to learn?

The advantage that I have over Samson is that I am the recipient of infinite grace. God knows I will do (or not do) things that will disappoint Him. In fact, He planned for it long before I was born. (Samson, on the other hand, only receives my grace which is often in short supply.)

It makes me think of a song I love (almost every situation makes me think of a song!) called For All You've Done. The second verse sneaks into my head on a regular basis:

Oh, Cleanser of the mess I've made,
Your boundless love for me portrayed.
With patience for my learning curve,
By holding back what I deserve.

(chorus) Oh, how wonderful Your mercy is!
How awesome are Your ways!
I come, I come to worship You
For all You've done.

It reminds me of how patient God is with me and that thought encourages me to try harder. Hopefully I can learn the life I need to live much faster than Samson has been learning where to tinkle.

Monday, February 19, 2007

When you don't ask for help, you get burned

Sometimes this is literal. I try to reach every place that the sun can, but without Val's help there is a spongebob shape burned into my shoulderblades every time. The beach is not as fun when it is a table for one. Happy birthday Vally!

Thursday, February 15, 2007


We have two jars of the good stuff, both Peter Pan, both start with 2111. Good thing furlough is only six weeks away!

Monday, February 12, 2007


Yesterday I had two different encounters with friends asking for prayer. One was at church, the other at a street market. One came looking for prayers, the other I "just happened" to run into. With one I was already in "work mode", with the other I was in relaxation mode. Both currently have horrible family situations that are outside of their control and are desperately in need of prayer.

Please lift up Jaci and Nadia tonight. They both have fragile faith and are facing so much. Jaci is a very dear friend and we have walked alongside her through other family crises. I worry for her because I have seen the toll these ongoing struggles have taken on her personally. Nadia is a newer friend but is moving this week to escape what is happening in her family and we may never see her again. My heart hurts for my friends.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What a Difference a Tan Makes

Two Years Later, originally uploaded by russandval.

People seem to be getting a kick out of this comparison so I'll share it with everyone. The first picture is from my ID card when we first arrived in Brazil. The second is my new ID picture, taken this week. Before the word "goth" comes up again, let me just say in my defense: 1. I moved in March so I was coming out of winter (the reason for the paleness). 2. My hair was not black, just a dark brown. 3. I was in the middle of the chaos of moving.

Even still, I can laugh at myself.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yesterday afternoon we turned in all our paperwork for our permanent visas. Now all we can do is wait. And pray.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Words cannot express my excitement. What I am experiencing is a dream come true. What am I so worked up about? The repairman just left and the air conditioner in our bedroom is now working again. Finally--sleep!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

! ! !

We just bought our tickets for furlough. It's official: in April and May we will be around to bug all of you in North America. We'll have a lot of ground to cover and relatively little time to do it but I can't wait! More details to come as our calendar gets finalized.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Here we are at the start of another week. (In our line of work, Sunday is the climax of the week leading up to it, so we really see Monday as the first day.) I'm sitting here trying to figure out what will make this week better and different than last week. Last week wasn't a very successful week for me. I felt pretty crummy most of the week and that left me unmotivated. Russ preached on Sunday so that meant he was home working on his sermon a lot. Of course there were some little victories, like finally getting the last of my Christmas decorations put away, but there were so many things on my list that didn't get done. (Oh, the joys of self-employment!)

But this is a new week. God is good and can help me be more this week. Russ and I hope to take a day this week to go out to our favorite beach so to be able to do that our schedules must be even more focused.

As I write I'm listening to Songs from the Voice, Volume One, an album of interpretations of many of the psalms by some great Christian artists. Every time I listen to it, lyrics jump out at me and I have to stop whatever I'm doing, pull out a Bible and pour over the original psalm. I can't count moments like that as distractions from my schedule, only enhancements of it. I give the time that I had set aside for something else and take a few minutes to get refocused. All of a sudden, the original task doesn't seem as weighty/important/pressing and I feel truly in control of my life (which in this case means turning control over to the one who made me.)

Right now, it's a particular album that makes me stop and inspires me to praise in the middle of the day. What is inspiring you lately? What makes you drop everything and give up your time? Knowing how life goes, there's someone reading this that isn't feeling that way much these days and has trouble understanding what I'm talking about. Take a second and comment to this post so people looking for new ways to encounter God during their day have new ideas to try!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Little More Funk

Several people told me that they really related to my post about the "funk". Today I was looking up a scripture for something else and came across a verse that expressed it perfectly. I'm not always a big fan of The Message paraphrase (though I believe it has its place), and I really haven't liked what I've read of the Psalms in it, but this verse expressed it perfectly. I think I'm going to put it in a prominent place so I can be reminded of its truth. Hope it helps you out!

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I'll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He's my God.
Psalm 42:11 (The Message)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Summer Cleaning

Summer in Salvador is an interesting time. First comes Christmas which compared to every other holiday seems quite low-key. New Year's is a much bigger time; many people travel for the holiday. Then comes January. In a nutshell, Brazilian labor laws guarantee workers one month of paid vacation a year and it seems like most people choose to take that month in January. Vacation time means travel and the majority head to the interior, which basically means "any place in the state of Bahia except for Salvador". When you ask people where they are headed, you have the opportunity to learn many obscure place names, all of which are either Catholic (St. Something-Or-Other), Indian (like Jaguaquara) or some combination of the two. When you ask for further details about the town, you inevitably receive an open invitation to come with them some time and for a brief second you imagine yourself enjoying the summer in a small city in rural Brazil. Then you realize that your friend was just being polite and even if the invitation was sincere, it would involve many, many hours in the car on horrible roads to arrive at a place that has neither a beach nor a mall. But they have family in that town and will have a wonderful time.

The people that stay in town slave away, making up for the lost labor force. HA! On the contrary, the people that stay in town are gearing up for Carnaval. The various acts for Carnaval start holding weekly rehearsals that are open to the public. This week is the largest event of the summer outside of Carnaval: the Festival do Verão (Festival of Summer). It's held out at the exhibition grounds and is a sight to behold. (We have never actually gone but can watch it on television every night from the comfort of our home.) It's many of the acts that will perform at Carnaval, many popular performers from other genres of Brazilian music and some international acts. (One of the highlights this year was Ben Harper.) The festival will end this weekend, leaving us with only a couple of weeks until Carnaval.

All of this fun means that it is impossible to get anything done. And so here I am, at home, cleaning out my cupboards. When I was a girl, I used to love cleaning out and organizing my mom's cupboards. Yes, I understand that makes me odd but I have never shyed away from that label. Somehow, though, when it's your own cupboards it's not as fun. I pulled out my spices checking their expiration dates. As I got to some of the more obscure ones, I was reminded of my ambitions when I bought them. That's right! I think. I was going to start cooking more Indian food. Oh, these are the seasonings for that recipe that I thought looked so good! And so on. As I fill my trash with forgotten food items, I can't help but feel a twinge of guilt. Every day, one of our building's custodians comes by to pick up our trash. To him, it will look like just another example of decadence among the rich. More wasted food. More money thrown away. When I stop to think about it, I'll have to agree with him. It's so easy to be tempted, as I walk through the grocery store or look through cookbooks, by dreams of what I might do or how I would like my life to be. I spend a couple of dollars here, a couple of dollars there, thinking that even if I never make it, it's really not that much money down the drain. But as I look at my full trash can, I realize the effects of that attitude. I'm able to put a total on all of that wishful thinking and it is embarrassing. I want to be a good steward. I don't want to even appear to flaunt my relative wealth by throwing food away. There's still a lot of stuff in that cupboard that is the product of dreaming. I'm going to resist buying more spices and seasonings until I have used it up. (I may have to get creative in how I use it to maintain our current diet efforts!) We'll see how it goes. Lord willing, next year I won't have as much to clean out.


Oh! Check out that new Plugoo thing in the sidebar--you can chat with us in that window anytime we're online. Nothing to download, nothing to sign up for. See how easy I'm making it for you? (Though if you want our MSN or Skype names I'd be happy to provide them!) Hope to hear from you soon!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Almost a week ago I wrote a lovely post about trying to be more open. And then I froze. What do you say after that? Did I really mean it? I've been thinking about that and my conclusion is yes, I did.

And so, friends, the truth: I'm in a funk. Some of it is coming down off the high of the missionary conference. It's like the days after summer camp--the glow wears off. All the new "I feel so close to God now" feelings get replaced by the mundane. God is closer than before but not as close as when you were getting to spend several hours a day learning about Him and talking about Him and talking to Him. I carried the "high" for several days but by this morning, it was almost gone. Instead of getting to focus on church this morning, my thoughts were filled with the fact that the water bottle was almost empty and even if it weren't we'd still have a problem because we didn't have enough plastic cups, and that I didn't have the books I needed to teach but it probably wouldn't have mattered because the kids were out of control, and that everyone who came up to me seemed to want me to do something for them and no one just wanted to say hi.

Now, this is pretty normal Sunday morning stuff. I can't tell you how many times I've had to run to the grocery store or wing a class or deal with everyone's stuff. (In fact, I understand that I chose this life.) But for some reason today it just hit me wrong. And so after being home for a couple of hours, I realized that I'm in a funk.

I described it to Russ as: kinda lonely, kinda sad, kinda dissatisfied and kinda unsatisfiable all at once.

It's definitely not what would constitute Major Depression, or even Depression, or even depression. I'm just in a funk. I'm sure it will blow over soon enough. I'll get distracted by something and stop thinking about myself so much. That seems to be the source of most of the funks. (A-ha! It's that silly pride problem again!)

It's somewhat tempting to stay in a funk for a little while. I usually give myself a lot of grace during that time. (And by grace I mean Doritos and television.) But when I really think about it, when I bring it before God, I am so embarrassed that I occasionally relish a good funk.

So this post is me banishing my funk. When I started writing, I thought, "I'll be honest about the fact that I'm in a funk." But as I kept going, I realized, "Why should I let myself stay there? I'll be honest about the fact that I just realized how stupid my funks are." It's kind of amazing the effect that blogging about this stuff is having on me. Once I decide to make my thoughts and struggles public, my self-examination reaches a whole new level (two, actually, if you include spell check!). I guess that's why sin thrives in secret, in the darkness. In the light, we are embarrassed by our actions.

I wish I had some sort of killer conclusion for this all. But I don't. As you can tell, I'm just figuring this stuff out. So I'll use my favorite conclusion of all--TADA!!!

(Do I get some sort of prize for including the word "funk" so many times in a single post?)