Thursday, September 30, 2010

Joy and Pollyanna

Consider it all joy, my brothers--James 1:2--a decision must be made
The Joy of the Lord is my Strength--Nehemiah 8:10--this is a fact
Yet I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Hab. 3:18)--I choose despite the circumstance "Yet, I will!"

So God is working on Joy in my life. It all started with the memory verse the kids are studying this week. Every Sunday morning we've been doing a little Sunday School with our own kids because we don't have a church close by to go to every week. This week's verse is the Fruit of the Spirit passage, Galatians 5:22-23. Then the next morning, our morning family devotions was on the same passage. In the application part, it asked the question, "Which fruit are you needing to work on?" Each one of us identified the ones we needed to work on most, and mine was "Joy".

Another event that helped me identify this area I need to work on is the book Pollyanna. Have any of you read that? I know you have, Mom. It's about a little girl who has gone through way too much for her young years, I think she was 11. She's lost both parents, moved in with an Aunt who doesn't want her, etc. But she plays this game. And the harder it is the more fun it is.

Her father was a poor missionary pastor, so anything they ever recieved came in the missionary barrels. If they needed a pair of boots and got slippers, they had to make do. Well, Pollyanna had been praying for a doll and instead she got crutches. That's when her Dad taught her this little game he plays. Whenever you face something disappointing or hard, you play the "Glad" Game. You find a reason to be glad about it. So the reason she was glad she got the crutches was because she never needed them.

Her father learned to play this game because he was struggling then came across a Praise the Lord for everything passage. Well, he reasoned, it's a command. So he counted all the times we are told in Scripture to praise the Lord. It was over 800 times. If God bothered to tell us to praise Him, even in difficulties, then He knows it will help us. So he obeyed by inventing this game.

Now, why am I telling you this? Well, #1, I need prayer to develop this habit of having a positive, faith-filled outlook on the struggles of life. #2, God is really convicting me of this and others may give me some "perspective" on this as well. I welcome your comments.

How do you deal with struggles? How do you "mind over matter" "considering it all joy", or choose to have joy instead of anger or a complaining spirit when facing the struggles that come into your life?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Birds, Scorpions and Mosquito Nets

Even though I'm a MK (Missionary Kid), I am facing a lot of cultural adjustments in returning to Brazil. It was a transition to go back to Fortaleza, even though I grew up there because most of my adult life was spent in the U.S. But I have never lived interior Brazil, and it is much more 3rd World and backward than the capital city.
For example, we don't have a ceiling in this house. It's just the clay tile roof that keeps the sun and rain out. But it is dusty and it allows other things in. Like Birds! Today we had a bird in the house when we woke up. Most mornings we wake up with the sunrise when the early birds land on our roof and sing in the morning. I always loved birds and their songs, but this is hard to get used to! Todd hasn't slept much past 5:30 since we moved into this house. The birds are trying to build nests in our roof as well, so we are constantly cleaning up feathers and nest parts.
Another new problem for us is scorpions. I've never, in all my years of living in Brazil, had to think about scorpions. But this place is just dry enough that they thrive here. Well, that means that we have to wear shoes all the time. We're all getting used to it and we're getting used to spotting the little creatures at night fall usually trying to walk right in our front door. Poor kids are terrified of getting a scorpion bite after overhearing us talk with some other missionaries and hearing their stories.
For the first time in all my MK life I am sleeping in a mosquito net. The kids have been using them since we came to Brazil, but I've never been able to deal with the idea of sleeping all closed in and not having a fan blowing directly on me. But it has become a necessity, especially for Todd's sanity. There are tons here, and I think it is one more result of not having a ceiling to add that extra barrier between us and the outside world. It's not just the mosquitos that we are trying to keep out, it's the flies as well. Todd is going to put up screens to try to diminish the numbers. And he is cementing the biggest spaces between the walls and the roof, too.
We're getting adjusted. I'm learning that it is just a part of the move, and I can't pretend they aren't real culture shocks. But I can't allow it discourage or make me angry. I have to lean on God's grace through this, too. Just simple things like having to wear shoes all the time, sleeping a different way than before, and having to watch out for bugs that could hurt us. You get used to it, but it takes time!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our Boys

The boys came by again this afternoon. This is a group of 5-10 boys that have been coming every afternoon for a week to play basketball with Todd and drink all our water and use all our bandaids. They start coming at 12:45 after their lunch and we tell them not to come back until 3:30. Around 2:30 their climbing up the gate looking in and calling us.
They are such sweet kids. The oldest is 12, the youngest is about 7, I guess. They are so rowdy and rambunctious. So cute. So dirty and their Portuguese is horrendous. Todd's learning all the wrong words. We are getting to know them and learning to love them. It's not hard. Sometimes, when they won't listen to anything Todd says, because he's a man and most aren't used to father figures, it gets hard and you want to turn them over your knee. But since we can't do that, we pray and ask God to give us wisdom how to show His love and His patience and that there is something called respect and obedience that is good and right.
Michaela has a really hard time with them coming. And frankly, Todd and I don't quite know how to handle their constant presence. We do enjoy it, and we hope to share Christ with these boys, but they are controlling our lives! And they want us to give them everything! And they're destroying things! It's such a different cultural part of things. Todd's so sore and doesn't have time to recover. He's got a busted toe nail and maybe a torn ligament in his shoulder now. Maybe it will get better if he rests.
We've decided we need to tell them they can only come twice a week to play from 3:30 to 5:00. They'll test us, coming other days and begging, pestering for us to let them in, but we'll have to hold to our guns. We're not getting any work done and Mickey's super stressed out! Today she was really upset because they were playing with Biscuit and she wanted to. But when we told her that we were going to set a limit to their coming and that we want them to come because we want to show them Jesus, she calmed down. She's such a good kid. Sammy just doesn't like it because they're rowdy and he's such a calm little guy. I think they'll get used to it, and our boys will get used to it too as they get to know us. Please pray for us!

Milk problems

We have a milk issue. The guy we were buying milk only has one cow and she's drying up. (Like everything else, the ground, the river, the plants). She only gives enough milk for his little girl now so he can't bring it by any more. We've been dealing with this for three weeks now. We've tried every kind of boxed milk they sell here in town and they taste horrible. The bagged milk would mean Todd would need to go every morning to the store before breakfast. He doesn't like that. That left powdered milk. It's expensive. But that's what we were going to do. Until this afternoon when I went out and talked with our landlord's wife and she asked if I would like to buy milk from a new guy. She's already got it arranged to start on Saturday. That's just like God. The minute we realize there's a problem, He already knew and had it all worked it. It's so cool.
Now this milk isn't pastuerized. It comes in a re-used two-liter coke bottle. We have no idea the conditions or cleanliness of either the cows or the hands that milk the cow. So what do we do? We boil the milk for 10 minutes, then let it cool, then put it in the fridge to be used the next morning. We get lots of good fresh cream off the top! And it tastes wonderful! The best milk we've had since we left the States.

A Day In the Life

Today, let's see. We woke up late because we stayed up late last night watching Tim Hawkins music videos. Todd discovered him yesterday and it took most of the evening to download them and so we were up late. That threw my whole day off. We're supposed to start school at the latest 8:30, and it was 8:45.
Sammy's been doing well in school. Today he reiterated, "I love school!" He is doing well, but I can tell he gets worn out with trying to make his letters right. I don't want to dampen his enthusiasm, but he just couldn't seem to figure out the Capital B. They all looked top heavy. So I gave him a big hug and told him he was working hard and let him play for the rest of the morning. We'll face it again tomorrow.
Michaela's school is taking until 1:30 to 2:00 every afternoon. I know I give her recess and we read aloud, but she's got so much to do still. I haven't even added piano lessons (Todd finally installed the electrical outlet to plug in the keyboard today) or all the history I would like to read. I can see she's getting faster and better with her spelling and writing already and it's only the fourth week of school. I'm going to wait and see how it goes.
We figured out our milk issue, I lost a bid on e-bay for homeschool books because of our slow internet connection, I found someone to make some curtains for us for super inexpensive, we had our usual group of boys come by to play basketball, besides normal every day life things. It's fun and it's busy. Normally I go walking with my two neighbors, the two Marias, but neither was available and I didn't make it back before dark anyway.
We don't have TV connection, and so we've been enjoying quiet evenings with the kids before bedtime. It's amazing that they don't even ask to watch movies much anymore. It could be because they're tired of the same ones, but I do see them playing more together and enjoying reading and looking at books together. Tonight we found hidden pictures in one of Sammy's books. It was fun. The kids are in bed and I'm going to bed soon. It's already 10 pm. I need to make up for yesterday.

My New Blog

For quite awhile now I've been thinking about starting my own little blog. Some friends have suggested it; I often think of little things I'd like to share but not something I would put in our news updates. Just personal, daily things, or new ideas, or cultural shock things, recipes that I have found or different experiences because of living in rural Brazil. It may not be new to some and it may be totally different from the lives of others, but this is my life.

So if I've been thinking about doing this, what has stopped me from doing it? Mainly, I couldn't think of anything creative to call my blog. I've thought of all sorts of things and finally decided today that I wouldn't put it off any longer. I'd just call it Julie's Blog, generic and boring, and leave it at that. I'm not an overly creative person anyway, so it fit. One's already taken. Well, I was about to give up then I really believe the Lord put this idea in my head, Grace Leaning or Leaning on Grace.

That seems to best describe where I am today. I am a sinner, saved by grace, who struggles with every day living much less the task God has given us to do here in Croata, Brazil, otherwise known as the "End of the Road". I have to depend on Christ every day to put food on the table, to take care of my kids and keep them healthy, to homeschool, to work along side my husband trying to help people that don't know they need a Savior, that don't trust the strangers that have moved in among them, see that they do need a Savior and should turn to Him.

I'm not perfect, I have a lot of areas that I struggle with, and yet the Lord has chosen us to be involved in this ministry. I figure, if God has brought us this far, then He'll give us the grace to do it. Therefore I must lean on Him. Lean on His Grace, His Strength, Depend Completely on Him. And He is Able! Praise God!

So welcome to anyone who is interested in reading whatever I think to write. Maybe no one will, but it will be somewhere for me to think out loud, too! :) And I often enjoy thinking out loud with my friends. I do pray though, that this will be an encouragement to someone who knows they aren't perfect put wants to find victory over sin and be able to serve the Lord completely, with their whole heart and mind. May this encourage you to see that God wants you, maybe not serving in the mission field overseas, but He does want you. May God be glorified and His name be praised!

May the Words of My Mouth and the Meditations of My Heart
be Pleasing to You, O Lord, My Rock, My Savior.