Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Time to Sing!, originally uploaded by russandval.

Team life has changed a lot in the past year. We've seen the birth of three babies and one more is due to show up in the next month. Once Travis and Alicia's new one is born, we'll have five kids under the age of two. We've decided to start getting the little ones together to play on a semi-regular basis.

Today we took advantage of our new building. English classes were going on downstairs, the men were having their leadership meeting in the office and we met in the kid's classroom. (That still left rooms empty!) It's so nice to have so much USABLE space!

We read books, sang songs, had dance time and did our best to keep the kids from killing each other. Jackson was a little overwhelmed but I figure he needs to get the hang of being around other kids before we go on furlough. (Can I just say that I'm looking forward to visiting churches with nurseries?)

Speaking of, our tickets are now set. We'll be leaving Salvador on September 8 and returning November 11. The countdown has begun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oh Wait!

I did have something deep to say today:

Just a little while ago Jackson and I were lying on the bed and I was singing to help him slow down enough to fall asleep. One of the songs was When the Night Is Falling. If you don't know it, the lyrics are:

When the night is falling
and the day is done
I can hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

When the night surrounds me,
all my dreams undone
I can hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

When the night would hide my way
I will listen until I hear you say,

"How I love you, child! I love you!
How I love you, child! I love you!
How I love you!"

When this life is over
and the race is run
I will hear You calling, "Come!"
I will come while you sing over me.

Jackson was lying beside me quietly, watching me sing. When I got to the chorus (the "how I love you" part) he decided he was tired of just lying there and rolled over. He looked up and gave me the biggest grin. My heart swelled (cheesy old expression but there's no other way to describe it!) and as I looked at my son and sang those words I swear I got a glimpse of just how much God loves us.

Except He loves us EVEN MORE THAN THAT!!!

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

I love neighborhood papers. When I was in my early teens, I had a job delivering our free neighborhood paper, The Lance, as well as a huge stack of flyers. (For the record, delivering a free paper doesn't pay very well!) I enjoyed reading The Lance because I could usually find the name of someone I knew in each issue. It made me feel connected and important.

When I worked at Mayfair Church of Christ, the church received The Oklahoma City Friday. Its target audience was "affluent Oklahoma City" and was mostly about the neighborhoods surrounding the church. It was always an entertaining read--full of details of debutante balls and the weddings of the rich and semi-famous. My favorite Friday activity was reading the police blotter which helped call attention to serious local crime issues like kids ringing the doorbell and running away, cars parked in the wrong place and the occasional band of gypsies.

We've started getting a new local paper called Nosso Bairro that covers our neighborhood of Pituba. It's always full of interesting facts about the neighborhood and the latest goings-on. Now I know what is probably going to be built where the old clube was, where the mini-favela is and that we really will be getting an Outback Steakhouse in a few months.

One of my favorite columns is written by a guy from São Paulo. He is able to reflect on Pituba and Salvador from an outsider's perspective. He talks about a lot of stuff that's unique to Bahia that we had already noticed.

His column this month was really interesting. He pointed out the number of holidays we've had since the beginning of the year. A holiday on a Tuesday means Monday will be off. A holiday on Thursday means Friday will be off. A holiday on a Wednesday means that Monday and Tuesday, or maybe Thursday and Friday, or possible all of those days, will be off. A holiday on the weekend means Friday is off and maybe Monday, too. And that doesn't even include recovery days, the days AFTER the holiday that you need to take off to get over your hangover or at least to travel back to town. As a result, there are a lot of days here that are useless for getting anything done. How many? According to this guy's count, of the 181 days from Jan. 1 to June 30, 68 of them have been weekends, long weekends or holidays.

SIXTY-EIGHT!!! That's more than 1/3! No wonder it takes forever to get stuff done here!

(I feel like I need to point out that our team policy doesn't give us all these days off. And we certainly don't get Sundays off!)

I don't really have a profound point to all this. I just found it interesting and wanted to share. So I'll cover up for my lousy conclusion by throwing in a video of playtime with JT.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Love in Action

Something is that is both a challenge and a blessing about our new building is the location. While we're on the beachfront avenue, our back door opens out into a neighborhood. We're trying to find ways to meet our neighbors' spiritual and physical needs. The new neighborhood, Boca do Rio, is full of opportunities for us to demonstrate God's love.

The past two Saturdays we've offered a free lunch of beans and rice. It was originally intended to be for pregnant women and moms and their kids but it expanded and we fed all kinds of people, including some grateful construction workers who had been sitting watching everyone eat.

The first Saturday was dark and rainy and no one quite knew what to think. Our members weren't sure what we were doing and didn't really show up to help. The neighbors weren't sure what we were doing and didn't really show up to eat.

But yesterday was different. We had members show up to help prepare food and to serve. And the neighbors came--we ran out of food in just over an hour.

This morning we showed some pictures from yesterday and it seemed like the rest of the church finally got it. We're already looking forward to the next time we get to share God's love with our community.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Five Months


This kid is five months old today. It's really hard to believe. He's getting to be such a big boy--he is now scooting backwards so we're having to start the babyproofing process. He is full of energy and joy and has a collection of girlfriends. I thank God for him daily.

In other news, I'm working at nailing down some dates for furlough. Does anyone know of a good place between Houston and OKC for a family of three to spend a couple days relaxing? We're trying to schedule in some down-time but have hit a wall while looking at the barren wasteland that is I-45.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So I didn't post last night. I'm sure you found yourself thinking, "Well, she posted every day for a week. Now she probably won't blog for three weeks." If you did, you were WRONG!

Last night by the time JT got to bed I was just too tired. It had been a loooong day. There was certainly things I could have written about, like JT getting his Brazilian passport, how my paint buying experience was unusually quick and pleasant and how nice it was to go for a morning walk with the kid and the dog. But I passed out, knowing I would need all my strength today because JT got some shots yesterday.

But that's not what I wanted to say today. I was just making a yummy dinner of blueberry pancakes (made from muffin mix some nice person brought us) and thinking about last week's project. And as I thought, a song popped into my head. Songs pop into my head all the time but this one surprised me. I was surprised by which song it was but at the same time I was surprised that I hadn't thought of it sooner.

I guess I didn't think of it sooner because it never really meant that much to me. We sang it a lot growing up but the lyrics always seemed a little, well, trite. And then I had a bad experience where it was sung at an inappropriate time and I just got turned off ever wanting to sing it. And of course, living here, I'm losing my repertoire of English songs, though I am working through Songs of Faith and Praise with JT.

So what song was it?

Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

(Are you at least humming yet?)

Now it doesn't seem quite so trite (though I can't say I love all the lyrics). I understand the idea of it--in tough times, focus on what God has done. Seems pretty obvious to say it like that. But I think that in those times, we often get caught up in what we want God to do and not what he's already done. Remembering His faithfulness yesterday past will help us get through today. By tomorrow we'll be able to look back and recognize today's blessings that may not have been visible while things were so tough.

So I think I will post my blessings on a semi-regular basis. I also think I'm going to start writing about my reflections on the hymns I've been singing. When you haven't sung them in a while, the words take on new meaning. Hopefully the posting drought of the past few months is over--JT is getting much better at playing independently--and I'll be able to share more about our lives and ministry.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


1. Beginner class went pretty well this week. Last week's class was tough but the students seemed to pick up the material better today. Plus every time we start a new class we have a mix of new and old students and it takes a couple of weeks for everyone to start feeling comfortable with each other. (I'm still working on remembering everyone's names! I have a bad case of mommy brain!) Today everyone seemed to click and it was a lot of fun.

2. The same friend who helped us out on Friday came and jump-started us again. It's nice to know you can count on people! (Hopefully the car will go to the shop in the morning!)

3. This morning when I picked up the money I had found yesterday, I discovered it was R$300! (It wasn't money that we had lost, it was money for a specific purpose that I had put "in a safe place", which usually means I can't remember where it is. Anyway, the purpose was served so the money can now be used freely.)

4. Jackson was well-behaved today during English class. He spent the first part of class in the walker and the rest of it napping. What a blessing to have a kid that lets us get some work done!

5. Today we sat down and started trying to figure out our furlough schedule. We are so blessed to have so many awesome people to see. And we're blessed that we're able to make this trip!

As I wrap up a week of listing five blessings at the end of each day, I can definitely say that it has been a good exercise. I spent my days looking for blessings. When bad things happened, I did my best to recognize the blessings in them. Because, really, it's been a doozy of a week--I lost my debit card, our car died twice (once while out), Russ got sick and I'm stressed out from trying to plan furlough. But those aren't the things I go to sleep thinking about. At the end of the day, I've focused on the people I got to spend time with and the people I love, what a blessing my son and husband are, how God has worked in my life and french toast waffles.

I don't know if I can keep up posting this every day but I'll at least try for once a week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Oops! I was just about to crawl into bed when I realized I hadn't done my list yet.

1. I found some extra cash today. I'm not excited that it's free money; I'm excited that it's cash at a time that, due to a series of unfortunate events, Russ and I are both without our ATM/debit cards. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks! But the important thing is I found R$200 as I was going through a drawer and we'll be able to use it for important things like baby wipes and, uh, food.

2. Velveeta and all the people that bring it to me. I love healthy food but there's just something about processed cheese, whether it be wrapped slices, powder or a 2 lb. brick! It's probably my ultimate comfort food.

3. I got to spend a LONG time today talking to my sister. We used to get to talk every day but now we're lucky if we connect twice a month.

4. Jackson is now big enough to play in the walker at church (though he can't really use it to "walk" yet). It's just another thing to keep him occupied when we're up there working. He had a ball playing in it!

5. All the tias (CHEE-ahs, aunties) visiting right now that help out with Jackson. He loves to flirt with them all!

5b. French toast waffles again today.

And just because it's been a while, here's a pic of Jackson at the Western-themed party the other night!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Tired. Hope these can be short and sweet.

1. Today I found out that some dear friends who have been praying hard for a better job situation have had their prayers answered. I'm so happy for them and am also thrilled because their new city will be much easier for us to visit while on furlough!

2. The cream the dermatologist gave me seems to be working. Oh plague, how I will miss you when you're gone!

3. Our car wouldn't start this morning (we discovered after we got all loaded up in it.) But there were lots of blessings to be found--the maintenance staff of our building was quick to try to help give us a push start (even though it's an automatic--they insisted we try. We humored them.), a friend who was home sick drove over to our place just to give us a boost, and we were able to get the car running with no trouble.

4. Jackson is such a sweet boy. I remind myself of this blessing on the rare days that he's a little grumpy. Most of the time, he is just the happiest little guy. God was kind to us!

5. Forcing myself to write these this week has been a blessing. I've started looking forward to it! (Well, almost. Tonight I was ready to crawl into bed and collapse when I remembered I needed to get this done.) I find myself looking for my blessings throughout the day. I'm going to finish out the weekend and then who knows? This might become a regular feature!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


When I went to bed last night after taking care of Jackson all evening, my one consolation was that Russ would be home in the morning to help out with Jackson. Unfortunately he woke up with a tummy bug so he wasn't much help. I had a hard time not being frustrated by the fact that I wasn't going to get some much needed down-time. So tonight's list isn't flowing as easily as it did earlier this week. But the fact that I've committed to list my blessings is making me realize that today wasn't as bad as I thought it was.

1. Tonight we had french toast waffles for dinner, which always makes me smile. The recipe is easy--soak your bread like you would for french toast but then throw it in the waffle iron. The results are amazing!

2. The dermatologist had samples of one of the medicines she wanted me to use. Our insurance is great but it doesn't cover drugs so they were much appreciated! She was very nice and dug around to find the samples for me. (If you're curious, it seems to be some kind of allergic reaction but I have no clue as to what is triggering it. I have a feeling there are are many more appointments at the dermatologist/allergist.)

3. Today Jackson got to Skype with his uncle Matt and his Grandma Q. I love the fact that our families' faces will be familiar to Jackson when he gets to see them in person.

4. Tonight as I listen to the rain and feel the "cold" wind, I can't help but be grateful for the roof over our heads. We see homeless people on a daily basis but it's still easy to take for granted just how blessed we are.

5. I'm thankful for the wonderful blessing of being from musical families and having a large repertoire of songs to sing to our little one. As I type this, we are singing JT to sleep as we do most nights. I pray that we can pass on to him our love of music, not to mention our love of God through the songs that we sing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I've been waiting until after JT is in bed to post but tonight Russ is out at a soccer game so I think I'll be ready to crash once the kid does. Incidentally, one of our teams is doing really well this year after finally making it back up to the top league so they're actually playing some of the best teams in the country. But I'm not going to count that as one of my blessings...

1. Jackson has been able to roll over for several weeks now but never really cared much to do it. Today he decided it was fun. Every time I turned around he would end up in a new position and keep playing happily. It's awesome and humbling to see the changes he goes through every day!

2. Russ, Jackson, Samson and I got to enjoy a nice walk this afternoon. The weather was absolutely perfect--not too hot, not too cold. We don't have many days like that!

3. We had our regular staff meeting this morning. Staff meetings used to be horrible affairs. Now they're usually quick and painless. I'm thankful for the ways God has matured all of us to help us work together better!

4. I got to enjoy lunch today with all the visitors. We had a back corner of the restaurant and had a great time visiting and laughing. I'll definitely miss them when they're all gone!

5. Both my precious grandmothers have birthdays this week. (They both read this blog so I won't mention their ages.) My grandmas are awesome. They both have lived incredible lives of ministry and service to everyone around them. Even though I have lived far away from them for most of my life, I can honestly say that without their influence and example I would not be who (or where!) I am today. I can't wait for Jackson to get to meet these two special women. (My grandfather isn't too bad either but his birthday isn't until November!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Tonight's five:

1. This morning JT played nicely while I made myself french toast and coffee. Even better--he kept playing and let me consume it! I almost felt human!

2. Tonight I got JT laughing harder that I'd ever heard before. He ended up with a serious case of the hiccups but didn't seem to mind too much.

3. I am blessed with a husband who really does try to make me happy. I really do need to give him more credit for trying and focus less on his mistakes.

4. I'm so thankful that we're able to afford good insurance. We lived without insurance in the U.S. and it was terrible. Now I never have to worry if I need to go to the doctor for anything (as I am doing later this week about a mysterious skin condition). And I have ready access to great doctors unlike so many people in this city.

5. This afternoon as I sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee with Russ (while Jackson grabbed at everything on the table) we realized that we leave for furlough in exactly two months. This time my list of restaurants to eat at and stores to shop at has shrunk and my list of people to see has grown. I can't wait!

Monday, July 07, 2008


Well, ladies and gentlemen, I seem to be in a rut. I'm finding it a little hard to be a stay-at-home mom. It feels a little like the movie Groundhog Day--I'm living the same day over and over again. It's easy to focus on all the negative things that happen every day instead of the good. And so I'm challenging myself. This week I will take the time every day to share five blessings with you. If a week isn't long enough to get me out of my rut I'll do it even longer. So here goes:

1. I love our small group. I've said this before but it warrants saying again. It's the newest of all the groups so we're still working on getting comfortable with one another but already there is such an intense feeling of family (possibly because half the group is related!). I cannot wait to see how God will use this group to bless all of our lives.

2. Right now one of my favorite people is Cassi. She and her husband host our group but that's not the only reason I consider her a blessing. Almost every Sunday, Cassi takes Jackson during worship. She plays with him, walks around with him when he's fussy and holds him while he sleeps. She gives me a chance to focus on the worship. As you moms out there know, you can't put a price on that.

3. We have nine young Americans visiting right now. They are all such a breath of fresh air. I won't lie; visitors are a lot of work. But they are also such a source of encouragement for us.

4. Today I got to spend some time on Skype with my parents. It was an unexpected blessing on a Monday morning. I love that we live in a time when communication with the folks back home is so easy. It's wonderful to see their faces and to share Jackson with them.

5. This afternoon Russ and I got to watch Jackson discover that he could get his foot to his mouth. He was so into sucking on his toes and we just sat and watched him (and took pictures, of course!). Even though sometimes being at home with him is boring and lonely, I love getting to see all these firsts.

There, that was five. I already feel a little lighter. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One More Thing

I forgot to mention the highlight of my day: this morning due to the convergence of all kinds of forces Russ and I actually got to SIT TOGETHER IN CHURCH. For a little while anyway. That may have been the first time that's happened since we moved here.

Sunday Afternoon


Jackson's face sums it up. By Sunday afternoon we are TIRED. As anyone in any form of ministry can attest, Sundays are not our day of rest. Saturdays aren't much better because we have all the buildup to Sunday. But by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, we're exhausted.

But enough complaining!

It's really a blessing! We spent our morning in worship with our church family who, with every week that passes, seem more and more like real family to us. Then we went out to lunch with the gang from Auburn and Heather, the intern. (Sorry, Heather, I'll stop calling you Heather-the-intern soon!) They've been working hard teaching English--their time slots are all filling up and the church building is so full of life. Their students love them so much they spend hours just hanging out at the building. (Which, by the way, is another way this building is proving to be a blessing--with so many rooms, there's lots of places for people to hang out without disturbing other activities.) They're a great group of "kids" and Russ and I enjoy hanging out with them. I'll say that it's because it reminds us of the time we spent working in college ministry and not because we want to relieve our own college years. After lunch we headed back to the church where we had our beginner English class. We had close to twenty students, most of them new this year. Russ just told me that Fernanda, a teenaged girl that was there for the first time today, asked her mom if she could come to class and her mom said, "No! That place is a house of prostitution!" Fernanda insisted it had been cleaned up and is now a church and her mom agreed to come with her to check it out. Word is spreading about the transformation!

Now I'm sitting here, hoping that at some point I'll get the motivation to make some dinner. (I have a feeling that our rumbling tummies will soon provide the motivation we need!)

Sundays are tough but I wouldn't have it any other way! In fact, since I was a PK I don't know any other way to live! I wonder what it's like to have weekends to relax!
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