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!