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