Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Church Windows a la Brasil!!


Yeah! We had Christmas Church Windows afterall! Patricia and Reesha found a marshmellowy candy that worked great...and they tasted almost identical to the original version.

Santa's Workshop

Here is proof that Santa was not shirking his duties this year....



Santa Reesha made this detailed miniature of our band!!!
A knick-knack shelf for daughter.


And another shelf & daughter...

An easy-to-set-up tent for Eric & Emily



Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Hot Christmas Day Morning!

I was in the process of making coffee for our Christmas morning breakfast. Instead of using the coffee maker, I grabbed the basket part of the coffee maker and set it on top of the mouth of a thermos so the steamy brew would pour directly into it. The basket was too big for the thermos , and I noticed it tottering precariously and mentioned to my daughter, Reesha, who was nearby to be careful! The next few seconds are a blur. I just know that all of a sudden a basketful of coffee grounds and boiling water was dumped on me smack onto my stomach and right leg! I ran into the laundry room next to the kitchen, peeled off my clothes while Reesha grabbed a towel for me to make a dash to the shower. Pat decided we needed to see a doctor, so off we went. A burn is a burn, but fortunately it hasn't been very painful though most unsightely. I'm soooo thankful that my grandkids were not the victims instead of me! And they waited so patiently for us to come back from the doctor before peeking into their stockings! God is loving and compassionate!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Norwegian Lover's Knots???


A heritage from my Grandma Lena's kitchen at Christmas time was a cookie called Lover's Knots. It wasn't my favorite, but its name had a cool ring to it and the cookie did taste good. Fast forward to the early 70s when we pastored a small church in South Dakota. I was elated to be invited to a "cookie recipe party" put on by none other than Karen, the high school principal's wife. I looked up to Karen--she seemed to have it all together. We were told to bring a favorite cookie and write up several recipe cards to give away. I chose Norwegian Lover's Knots (This would be different, I thought, because this was not Norwegian country). I assumed everyone would exchange recipe cards with all those present, but that was not the case. After sampling all the cookies, if someone asked for your recipe you then produced your neatly written card. Well, guess what? Not one person asked for my recipe of lover's knots. I looked at the 10 salmon-colored cards in my hand thinking what will I do with ten recipe cards of lover's knots. (I'm still using one of them in my recipe box). I must confess I was a tad disappointed and wondered why no one had asked for my recipe. But the evening was not wasted. It was that night that I gleaned many Christmas cookie recipes that became traditions in our family like: pecan tassies (I think I suggested exhanging cards with this lady), Christmas Church Windows (so delicious!!), and Date-Nut Finger Rolls (no longer a tradition because I quit making them!)

Yesterday and today I made lover's knots. I didn't especially want to make them, but a couple of ingredients I wanted to get rid of in my frig were in the recipe, and my "saving self" got the better of me.

It wasn't easy or fun. The dough was too soft and I couldn't make the lover's knot. I didn't have the right kind of sugar to sprinkle on top. My penchant for perfection kept pinching me until I realized I was in charge here and I had the autonomy to decide whether or not it had to be done "the right way" (Isn't that always freeing?). That's when the lover's knots turned into lassos. It was so much easier, though symbolically it wasn't good! I used the only color of decorator's sugar I had on hand--pink. The egg whites made a mess on the baking sheets obligating a washing inbetween batches. I was never so happy when I pulled the last sheet out of the oven.
Ummmmm! Those broken pieces sure taste good...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mary and baby Jesus. He didn't cry once.
The Rabbi gets a mustache with the help of one of the gossipers...

The Angel Gabriel


The stable
Reenacting the Christmas story sounds innocuous, but this year we especially perceived the enemy's attempts to abort our efforts. Our plans were for the church to present a musical performance of the beloved Christmas story at our community center instead of in our church. That's what the enemy didn't like! Here are some of the obstacles we encountered.
1).The Sunday before the event, the youth leaders, together with the young people, were to blanket the neighborhood with advertising. One of the couples in leadership had a big fight over their toilet tank (!) that day and didn't show for the first part of our church service. Later, the wife did appear and instead of blanketing the neighborhood as planned, gave out the advertising to individual church members. After church, we held our first rehearsal. It was ludicrous. Several were unable to come and there seemed to be four or five directors instead of just one! The person responsible forgot to make copies of the script, but went home to print out a few.
2). Monday night the young people were to distribute invitations. The leader commutes by motocycle and a hard rain started falling just when she would be leaving home. The meeting was postponed to Wednesday.
3). Tuesday, the person who would be playing Joseph in the play called to say he had to work the night of our performance and suggested we give his part to his brother(!). He did say he would be done with work by 8:00 p.m. which meant he could still do the play if we started later than planned.
4). Wednesday, when the young people were to distribute invitations, the leader left work feeling dizzy and went home to lie down, but eventually did arrive! She and two of the girls from the youth group scattered throughout the neighborhood while the boys--not the least interested in helping--played a game of soccer nearby.
5). Friday night was our second rehearsal--still without the full cast. I e-mailed changes in the script to our friend but they mysteriously never printed out. We decided to do the play outside instead of inside the small community center.
6). It started pouring rain on Sunday morning even though the forecast was only for a 20% chance of rain at night. We held our breath as afternoon turned into evening and no more rain. Our talented stage hands built a beautiful stable, a bench was rescured from a pile of disgarded furniture on the corner, and things started taking shape.
7). All afternoon I was feeling anxious and disturbed because I hadn't yet invited my neighbors to the event. I needed those invitations! My insides were churning and I felt restless until I fell on my knees by my bed to ask the Lord for help and grace. When the youth leader arrived around seven--an hour before show time--with more invitations, I took to the street with several others to hand out last-minute invitations. We stopped at one house where an older lady was very interested in coming, but at another a stern-faced man bluntly asked, "Who are you?"
8). Just before showtime, a fine mist began to fall. A few umbrellas popped up. Prayers also popped up to heaven for God to intervene. And the rain stopped, giving us a beautiful, cool evening.
Then the play began. I stood by my post to run the sound and lights. The director basically lost it and was trying to help everyone with everything so that no one ended up directing the play!! A whole scene was skipped over, Mary came onto stage too soon and cut off one of Joseph's songs, actors made up lines, but the audience was unaware of our mistakes, and God was present! Little baby Jesus cooperated better than anyone else. He was held, laid in a hard manger, picked up and sung to and throughout the performance didn't cry even once!! His paternal Grandma, who isn't a Christian, cried throughout the play.
The greatest part was that many, many of our neighbors came--many who had gotten a last-minute invitation--and heard the Greatest Story Ever Told, as well as a personal testimony by Pastor Pat. It was a great victory!
The older lady we had invited was enthralled. She wants me to come visit her and says she will come to visit me.
We think we should make this an annual event for our neighborhood. We are so excited at how God can work inspite of human weakness, forgetfulness or failure. To God be the glory!

Monday, December 17, 2007

BYE, BYE, RUFUS & RUBY

Rufus and Ruby Robin (I have chosen what I consider appropriate names) are now two weeks old. Their comportment changed drastically this week. Whenever I approached the window, Rufus would tuck his little head down into his feathers. The "fear of man" mecanism was definitely working. They were awake more of the time. Today, in my zeal to get a better picture of them (as you can see the one posted here was taken through a dirty window) I ever so carefully began to slide the window open, which the nest leans against, and to my utter surprise, Rufus, spread his wings and glided away! (He didn't even know he could fly, my goodness, but the fear instinct won over good sense.) Then my good sense didn't function either, and I continued my pursuit of opening the window when Ruby spread her wings and flew away, too. I was too shocked to look where they landed, but for certain it was in my neighbor's lot! Oh, Naughty Nedra, look what you've done!!! The parents are clucking and swooping low in the next-door lot and hopefully they will find their children. Please forgive me, Mr. & Mrs. Robin, for scaring your children away.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

PART OF MY CHAT WITH EMILY ON MSN

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IF YOU FALL, DO IT WITH CLASS!

Pat left in the car this morning to buy wood for Santa's workshop. He called me at noon to say he was on his way home when the car mysteriously stopped. He would call the mechanic, he said, but an hour later he called again to say he was still waiting. About a half hour later he pulled into the garage grinning sheepishly and said, "Don't ask me what was wrong!" And then proceeded to tell me.

While waiting for the mechanic, a church member pulled up and offered his help. Soon another couple from church (and neighbors as well) pulled up, too, and after a bit, the husband said, "Could it be you are out of gas?"
Well, that thought had occured to Pat, but because the gas tank indicator wasn't even in the red, he had discarded the idea. Now, it seemed like a good idea to check it out, and because the gas station was close by, he took off running like a track star, only to trip and fall head over heels in the gravel. He fell in the correct fashion, however, rolling his body, but making quite a spectacle of himself. As he peeled himself off the ground, he noticed the church member's wife had witnessed the great fall. "I'll just tell them you were picking something up from the ground," she teased.

Well, after the car guzzled some gas, it purred like a kitten and brought my hubby home safe and sound except for a scrape on his hand.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Matter What

No matter what my circumstances, my moods or feelings, I always want to

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OUR DATE...

Twenty years ago--no--ten years ago, I wouldn't have thought a sixty-year-old couple had much romance left in their relationship. How wrong I was! How I have underestimated and condemned "senior citizens" to being little more than vegetables.

Well, today Pat took a day off and after taking care of a few things in the morning, we left the house after lunch to just hang out together. We drove to the neighboring town called Novo Hamburgo (New Hamburg) and the first thing Pat announced was that he would "show" me around the city (I've been there before). That consisted of walking the business district while he gave a running commentary--Dugan style--about what we were seeing. We ended up in the air-conditioned shopping center where we mosied through decorated corridors and had a McDonald's ice cream cone while listening to Christmas music in English coming from a beautifully decorated area where Santa Claus was on duty.

Now he's waiting for me to finish this so we can watch a Woody Allen movie and eat popcorn...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Believe in Miracles


André (Andrew) just turned nine on December 2nd.


Tonight at our cell group we read the first chapter of Luke. I asked everyone to keep their eyes peeled for "miracles" and when one appeared to call out "MIRACLE" as we read the text. That helped keep the 'youths' attentive and it was a good exercise for us all. We found so many! And speaking of miracles, nine-year-old Andrew needs a miracle. His kidneys are not functioning well and he has been hospitalized for nearly a week now. His mother has been staying with him this whole time. Please pray for him and his parents.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Martha, Martha, you are worried...

The pastors gathered around our small table.



Pat gets the honor of digging the first shovel-full to place the 'symbolic' cornerstone. My disciple, Karine, was the first of our four baptismal candidates.




I was a Martha all last week, busily cleaning my house, planning what I would serve, food shopping & wondering what was the best way to distribute the seven pastors who were coming from all over Brazil ( who should get a room by himself either because he snores loudly or because he is important, who should be sent to the neighbors, who would not mind sleeping on the bad mattresses in the TV room, etc...).
The earliest arrival would be Thursday night. On Wednesday one of the pastors called and said he would arrive the next morning. That was all the incentive I needed to finish my cleaning on Thursday morning. My hands flew over the furniture, dusting, waxing, washing windows, wiping all those nasty cobwebs from crooks and crannies. But the first pastor only arrived after lunch on Thursday! Whew! My house was ready for him. A phone call later that night confirmed that the next batch would only arrive the next morning. Whew again! After our evening snack I delivered the one pastor to my neighbor's house for the night since my husband was traveling. Shortly before lunch on Friday "the batch" arrived together with the news that another pastor, his wife and her friend would also be arriving shortly! My heart did a quick flip-flop because I wasn't expecting to entertain women as well (and they would notice all the dirty corners I hadn't gotten to.) God always knows which information to withhold from us, and for me, this was it.
It was settled, then, that I would have 9 guests and my neighbors 2. (The lady friend didn't come after all).

It always sounds so spiritual to be a servant, but I discovered this weekend that it's mainly just a lot of work...and I didn't even make the main meals.

Pat had arrived at noon on Saturday after being gone five days, only to pack his bags again to speak at a church retreat. He would come back Sunday afternoon
I was awake by 6:15 Sunday morning already thinking about breakfast. The pastor-.president of our denomination had suggested we do a barbecue for lunch, but before I could start on that I had to deliver messages to church members in our neighborhood about our own church program that afternoon. Later I would have to to make a quick appearance at a baby shower. At 4 p.m. our church was holding a symbolic cornerstone-laying ceremony, followed by a baptism in a neighbor's swimming pool, followed by Christmas program practice! Some of our pastor friends would be leaving after lunch and with that many people trying to get ready, here's a little of what transpired:

Do you have an iron?
Is it 110?
Could I have some water?

Do you have a hanger we could use? We'll bring it back.

My friend would like to buy 5 of your cds. ...
Could I use your computer? (one pastor)
Could I use your computer and printer? (another pastor)
Would you download that picture you took of me so I can transfer it to my Ipod?


By the end of the day I was exhausted. My husband more than I. Then he realized he would have to wait up for the group that had traveled to a nearby city in order to open up the gate for them to park their car. (They got home at 1:30 a.m.) I heard them come in. I heard them knock on our door at 4:30 a.m. to wake Pat up to travel. I heard Pat's alarm go off shortly afterwards. I heard Pat's alarm go off again! Pat got up to tell them he wasn't going to travel with them as previously planned and waited up to open and close the gate. Then we slept until 8. Today was my Sunday. I had the opposite of an adrenalin rush today and I think I understand perfectly the Martha, Martha from the Bible. I'm convinced she was a fine woman.



One-Week Old Robins

These babies don't do much during the day--only eat and sleep. What a BIG mouth!!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Unless you become as little children...

Do you like this pose?

They devoured the milk voraciously--like we should "drink" the Word.

Well, maybe this isn't what the Scriptures mean about becoming like little children, but it felt good to go for a ride on the back of an eight-year-old pony and give a bottle to a pair of month-old lambs! These animals are part of the "living manger scene" that will be performing throughout the month of December in the public park in town.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wild Pig, An Anteater and Transformation by Pat Dugan

Our boat, Angel of the River

Pat and Benides, our leader in Paraguay



Edgard and his happy crew!



I gnawed another bite off the wild pig’s rib straining to catch some meaning from the babble of guarani mixed with Spanish. I was several hours up the Paraguay River from Asunción finishing off an eventful day in the company of my missionary colleagues and a happy array of river people. Edgard, a Christian for five years, who fished not only for catfish but for men, was trying to tell me the story of his daughter’s healing that had led to his conversion. I wasn’t getting very much of his earnest testimony. His twenty-three-year-old wife, her straight black hair and high cheekbones a tribute to her Indian heritage, was trying to keep order in spite of her swollen tummy. She is expecting her eighth child (yes, you read that right) in a couple of months. The kids, neat and clean in simple clothes, healthy and happily uninhibited, alternately jumped up on our laps or devoured roast pig.
My mind went back a few hours to another family gathering two and one-half hours up river. We had enjoyed the breezy trip north on the boat run by the Bethany team in Paraguay. The river was gorgeous and the scenery serene. In a moment of excitement a wounded wild pig, later to be our supper, had been fished out of the river by the experienced crew and quickly killed and butchered. Finally, the Anjo do Rio (River Angel) glided to a stop just below a scattered group of simple dwellings high on the bank. After a twenty minute walk we arrived at our destination, one
of the boat ministry’s preaching points. The matron of the clan welcomed us warmly.


The other adults and older children peered warily at us from the shadows of the long, low, thatched-roof house made of palm logs staked in the ground. There were no doors, no windows; just a basic, single, multipurpose room that opened toward the river and a patio of packed earth. We seemed to be in a cultural limbo midway between tribe and village. There was no electricity, no bathroom or running water (except for the murky river water) but ironically a cell phone hung from a pole!



As we sat on the patio, the older family members hid in the house while missionary Benides described the darkness of their lives, the uncertainty of fishing and the manioc harvest, the frustrated attempts at life in the city, the isolation due to the lack of Spanish language skills. But beyond the facts of their precarious existence, the moral and spiritual darkness he described was almost palpable: the endemic sexual abuse of children. Parents, sometimes in desperation, offer daughters as “ticas-ei” (lovers) in the hope of finding a bridge to a better life for the family. Their only spiritual alternative is a wildly syncretistic, idolatrous form of Christianity.

The hostess brought out a bowl of freshly roasted anteater meat served with bread. It was fatty but spicy and good. Pretty soon a missionary guitar started to strum Paraguayan rhythms and sing gospel songs in guarani, the language of their hearts. The younger ones drew slowly nearer. The little ones quickly lost their inhibitions and began singing and doing the motions to songs about Jesus and salvation.

Home is where you hang your hat!


I saw in their beautiful tanned faces the shine of infant innocence and purity…the look of children around the world, just like the four I had raised. As they danced and laughed I tried to imagine what those beautiful brown eyes had already seen of suffering and evil as well as what they saw as their future. I paled at the thought. Their only link to a better life was a little crew on a modest river boat that pulled up to their shore.
A bowl of banana ice cream brought me back to the present. Edgard was still telling his stories and extolling the Lord. My mind had closed down and refused to decode any more obscure language. Still I watched him as he alternated talk with hugging his
exuberant progeny while downing ice cream.
The River Angel

Here is what the gospel of Jesus Christ does in the life of a family. Not just a ticket to heaven, but life abundant in an isolated village on the bank of a river—or it could be in downtown São Paulo. I was tackled by one of his little boys and as I wrestled happily with him I thought, “What a difference the gospel makes! I am glad to be a missionary.”
Of course I do much better in the city where there are showers and shopping centers and Pizza Hut. The wild pig is okay but I can think of things I’d rather eat…

Thursday, December 06, 2007

IT'S THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!

Bethlehem Blue

I want to go caroling...

...or make a snowman!


I remember my one-room school house!



Celebration!!




Expectation...




Yesterday I cleaned until after midnight. When I finally fell into bed I wasn't the least bit sleepy. My legs felt sticky from my great physical exertion. My right knee ached and my hip. (Maybe I shouldn't have picked up that 20 pound-flour bag??) At 1:15 a.m. I got up and showered. Back in bed I was still not sleepy. I tried reading the Psalms, I tried counting backwards from 1000. Sometime after two I fell asleep. Today I was motivated to clean. I flew through the house, washing windows, waxing the living room floor, dusting, making up the beds and placing the sweet-smelling comforters on all the beds (another task I did yesterday was washing all the comforters and hanging them on the line so they would have that fresh, country smell. I only have one line, and I overloaded it because it broke and all my freshly washed bedspreads fell on the floor--some in a puddle of water--but damage was minimal! )--all because one of the pastors called and said he would be in town by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m.
"Oh, Lord," I pleaded as I whipped the floor rag over the smooth kitchen tiled floor. Why hadn't I been more focused on the other days?? But, mysteriously, (God moves in mysterious ways...) I was able to sail through my tasks, and when the phone rang at 1:30 p.m. I was basically READY FOR COMPANY--a true miracle. Now here I sit at the computer while my guest is watching the evening news. We have had our evening meal and done a lot of talking about churches. Later I will send him over to the neighbors for the night as none of the other pastors will arrive until tomorrow morning.

And there's a chocolate cake waiting to be eaten upstairs.!!

The 3rd robin's egg hatched, but there's no sign of him in the nest. I think he's in birdie heaven.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

P.S.

I'm happy to say that's the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers!

TURKEY SOUP AGAIN TODAY!

I'm really getting mileage out of my Thanksgiving leftovers. I froze some of the turkey soup I'd made thinking my husband would love the privilege of tasting it, but I didn't have the courage to serve it. Instead, I had turkey soup today and yesterday while my husband is traveling--again. Today is Day 3 and I must admit I'm not motivated to do much. The regional superintendents of our Bethany churches will be staying at our place over the weekend and that still hasn't been enough motivation for tackling my housecleaning with vim & vigor. I've been picking at it since Monday. Without my husband I get introspective, analytical and life gets way too serious. I can blame part of this "moodiness" on the movie our cell group watched last night, "At the End of the Spear" about the missionaries to the Auca Indians in Ecuador . Today I watched the documentary part and it left me teary-eyed and pensive. It's definitely a must-see if you haven't yet watched it.

Now it's back to cleaning...

Monday, December 03, 2007

BABY BIRDS BORN


I had another surprise today. As I walked past the birds' bedroom, the mama or papa (?) bird looked like it might be pecking the little blue eggs, and my presence startled her so she flew away and gave me a chance to peek in the nest. Two of the ugliest birds lay in the nest, their hearts beating like crazy. Their eyes bulged out and they looked very uncomfortable, just kind of bunched up. But how exciting to participate in this little family affair.

WOULD-BE STUDENT FOR A DAY

For weeks I wrestled with the issue of going back to school. I tossed the pros and cons around like a professional juggler. I prayed. I prayed. I prayed. I searched the web. I sought counsel from two important people at the university...and then I made the leap! And as I leapt, I prayed, "Lord, I feel like a blind person feeling his way, but here I go..." I registered for the entrance exam and paid my fee on the deadline for registering. Then Pat and I celebrated by having coffee at the University Coffee Shop. I began to imagine myself rubbing shoulders with college kids that could be my children and I wondered if I could actually DO the classes, but before that, I wondered if I could even pass the entrance exam. We drove home, my mind chuck-full of new possibilities.

The very next afternoon as I was driving in traffic, my cell phone rang! It was the gal from the university I'd talked to yesterday and she bore sad tidings: not enough students had signed up for the course I'd signed up for and they would be unable to offer it. Would I like to migrate to another course that would have some of the same classes???

All of a sudden my plans turned to ashes, but I strangely felt peace about saying no to it all. I'd prayed for God to guide me. He'd allowed me to go as far as paying the exam fee, then shut the door, but I expect he'll open a better one...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A PLEASANT SURPRISE


Here is proof that I haven't opened the windows in the guest room in a while. I rushed into the room to close the curtains one day and heard the sound of wings. When I looked out the window I saw a robin trying to extricate herself (himself) from between the partially closed wooden shutters. Once he or she was gone, I couldn't believe my eyes. This is what I saw wedged between the corner of the window and the shutter...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

SHEEP NEED A SHEPHERD


This is Pat and my first attempt at pastoring a church in Brazil. It's a lot more than standing behind the pulpit on Sunday morning with a polished sermon and a harty handshake at the door. Here's a typical example of the day-to-day work of a pastor. Tonight was a couples' get-together. It had been decided beforehand that our three Bible study groups would divide the book of Song of Solomon into three parts and each group would decide how they wanted to develop the text into something practical for the group. Here's what transpired:

Mid-afternoon the telephone rang and I heard snatches of a conversation that went something like this:

Voice on telephone: I heard the meeting was canceled tonight.

Pat: Why would that be? Who told you it was canceled?

Voice: M. said she wasn't going. She and her husband had a fight about their group's presentation. She said she's not going. (M. happens to be the leader's wife of one of the study groups.)


Pat then had to call M. and later M.'s husband to try unravel what was going on. She affirmed she wasn't going.

M's husband was working and couldn't stop for a long conversation.


Later, the lady who was to have prepared something to say representing our group talked to Pat on the phone.


Lady: I heard the meeting was canceled.

Pat: Who told you that?

Lady: M.S. told me.

Pat: Well, that was an idea off of someone's head.

Lady: Well, I didn't prepare anything because I thought the meeting was canceled. I thought it strange that no one called to tell me, but I figured someone had tried, but couldn't reach us because our phone line was occupied by the internet.


But, in the end, it turned out to be a good meeting. Our group didn't have the greatest presentation. The Lady from our group backed out at the last minute and didn't go. M. and her husband didn't show either, but God used his word and it was wonderful to see how each group presented something relating to the same theme--without collaborating. And that theme was praising and complementing one's spouse...verbalizing one's feelings and sentiments. And in the midst of all the bungling, mistakes and misunderstandings---the "sheep-ness"--if you please, the Holy Spirit shone through and the sheep left edified. Praise God for the Holy Spirit! Baaaaaa!

MARVELOUS MONDAY

Monday was our day to be together--no work allowed. We had brunch about ten then left the house for the day. It was "my pick"--whatever I wanted to do! We drove into Porto Alegre and began our day walking in a huge park in the downtown area. The park is full of huge, old trees, paths and fountains. There was even a mini-zoo with monkeys, vultures (!) and a few odd birds. From there we went to see the Christmas decorations in the big shopping center, Praia de Belas. (The decorations were a disappointment!) While there we popped into Pizza Hut and shared a small personal pan pizza and topped it off with an ice cream cone at McDonald's. We had a lot of catching up to do and one of my favorite things after Pat gets back from a trip is to listen to all his stories...he always seems to meet up with interesting people and go fun places. This time the highlight of his trip was the river boat up the Paraguay River.
We picked up a movie on our way home--Don Juan--a film I'd never seen and a story I'd never read. Well, there were two versions of the movie and we picked....the bad version, recorded in French, dubbed into Portuguese. It was maybe one of the worst films I've ever watched. haha! But that didn't dim the marvelous Monday we spent together!!!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

DAY 8: AN UNCERTAIN RENDEZVOUS

Sunday afternoon I was absorbed with preparations for entertaining the guest speaker and his family later that day. I set the table, fussed and fumed, paced like a cat, then took a shower. I figured they would arrive between four and five o'clock, but by 4:30 I was agitated and needed to know for certain. I reached them by cell phone and my heart sank when he said, "We've just finished Sunday dinner, and we'll be on our way soon." I looked at my table laden with delicious-looking breads, brownies, cold cuts and cheese and thought my labor had all been in vain. They wouldn't be hungry at all. My only consolation was that I'd invited my neighbors over as well, and surely they would have an appetite.

The speaker and family arrived and graciously pecked at the food. (My neighbors enjoyed it). We went to church and heard a great message that blessed us all. Then several of us went to a member's house to surprise him for his birthday. All this time my cell phone was on waiting for a call from Mr. D. About 10:30 p.m. , while still at the party, my phone rang. It was Pat and he was already at the airport in Porto Alegre. My friends looked questioningly at me and asked, "Are you going to the airport by yourself?" It's probably not a good idea for a woman to be alone in a car at that hour of the night headed for Porto Alegre, but I didn't feel I could ask someone to go with me and sped off into the darkness relieved that he was only a short distance away now. Since it's about a half hour to the airport, I kind of expected Pat to be standing on the sidewalk waiting for me, but he wasn't. I parked and walked in to the "arrivals" section, my eyes scanning the crowd for a kind-looking gentleman with a gray goatee. He wasn't there. This airport isn't that big, so it doesn't take long to look at everyone. I walked outside thinking we had missed one another and he was waiting at the curb. No Pat there, either. Back inside I went for another look. That was when I began to doubt myself. Had we given one another mixed signals somehow? Had Pat expected me to already be there on his arrival and now where was he? I called his cell phone...it was turned off. How were we to find one another?? Frustrated, I turned to go outside for another look...and HE HAD SUDDENLY MATERIALIZED!!! My relief at seeing him masked my joy of having him back. But his hug felt wonderful, and no, I hadn't gotten my signals mixed. Thinking it would take longer for me to arrive, he decided on an impulse to go up to another floor to look around-- apparently just as I arrived. My world suddenly looked bright again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 7 Ramblings

I woke up to another glorious day of blue skies and sunshine! How I'm loving this November spring weather. I discovered several baby mangos coming out on the tippy top of our mango tree. I love them!

Today was baking day. I started out making granola, then brownies, but before the brownies were half done baking the stove ran out of bottle gas! And by the time the gas man came with a new tank the brownie dough had cooled off and later when I took them out of the oven they looked different--the top had formed a crust. Then I tackled sweet roll dough. To make a long story short, I am having the guest speaker and his family over for coffee before church tomorrow night.

My friend never called about the book I'm lending her, so I took it over to her house on my way to the grocery store. I'm praying and praying that God will do something in her heart. She told me she is definitely moving to another neighborhood. I will miss her. She also said she ran into an American from California at the University and told her about us. Maybe I'll get a call one of these days...

I finally identified the feeling I've been carrying around these days that I've been by myself. It's called loneliness. I'm ready for my hubby to come home.

I had several nostalgic moments today. Every time I hear the drone of a small airplane it takes me back to the farm in North Dakota on a summer day and I am a kid again. And my sister and I run outside to see the airplane and watch it until it is out of sight. It's a lonely feeling because we didn't live close to any neighbors and my Mom was often working during those long summer days. That's how I felt today. Someone must have been practicing his flying because the plane circled around many, many times today. I found it up there in that blue sky only once, even though later I actually ran outside to look for it, but the tree blocked my view!

I'm tired. Good night.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 6 Alone

I left the house for my daily walk at 5:30 p.m., rejoicing in the still beautiful day even though the sun would soon be starting its descent in the west. I headed down to a new neighborhood that we literally saw being born. I used to walk there often and pray for whoever would one day live there and walking the now populated village brought back a certain nostalgia. Back in our neighborhood, I stopped to visit a new neighbor. Her daughter has hosted our church's Bible study group on different occasions and I knew the mother was from an evangelical church. Our talk roamed from a time she worked in the home of a muslim family on the border of Brazil and Paraguay while her husband worked on the famous Itaipu Dam to her helping out in her church's soup kitchen to help our town's Indian population. She is 55 years old, but seems somehow older than me (!) and she's excited because she and a group of older women are studying. She knew how to read, but didn't really know how to write correctly. Now she loves practicing writing names in her agenda and proudly showed me how she was doing. "I only studied until the 2nd grade," she said. "I had a family to take care of and had to work." One day in class the teacher asked the women to draw stick people. "I had never drawn before, but I was the first one done and the teacher gave me a 100!" Other women didn't even know how to draw a circle for a head.
Her daughter complains that Mother is never at home, but how can she help it? Her sun is rising and she has a new lease on life!

My Heart Instructs Me

I fell asleep last night meditating on Psalm 16. The verse "I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me," caught my attention because I have been laying a decision before the Lord that must be made within the next 12 days and I thought it would be nice of the Lord to just tell me in my dreams. And I usually don't remember my dreams. But I awoke with a start around 6 a.m. after dreaming I was driving a car up an immense, granite, bare rock that rose at an almost 90º angle, and there was a Volks bug in front of me, spitting and sliding, but I wasn't afraid even though the rock seemed insurmontable and I knew I would make it. That was my dream. Before that, I remembered I'd had an almost nightmarish dream about dozens and dozens of cockroaches coming out of everywhere, and after the rock dream I fell asleep again because it felt wrong to get up at 6 o'clock and I dreamed it was Michelle's wedding day (she got married in l999) and she left the house at 7 a.m. to buy earrings for the wedding and she wasn't a bit worried about the time. I was. Then I realized it had never occurred to me to buy a new dress or earrings for her wedding and waves of regret washed over me until I remembered the dress I bought in Camboriu in September this year that I haven't worn yet and I felt better. But the new dress needs altering, so I started sewing and then I woke up! So, heart, what are you trying to tell me?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 5 Alone

Today is a Brazilian holiday--the Proclamation of the Republic-- and I didn't eat turkey leftovers. It was a beautiful day-- bracing cool wind with sunshine--perfect for a walk with a husband were he not hundreds of miles away. I worked on some Christmas projects and finished a great book, "The Burden is Light" by Eugenia Price. What struck me from the book was how she and her friend learned how to take God at his word with the resulting beautiful answers to prayer they share. She writes, "By then we were catching on to the art of "expecting" and then praising. He gives when we plead, but I believe His Heart longs for our expectancy." And that's where I fall short too often. While devouring the book I managed to devour two hamburgers and as soon as I finished I thought, "I must loan this book to my neighbor." The thought was so strong and insistent that I'm sure it was the Holy Spirit. I called her almost immediately on the phone and she told me she was needing something to read and thanked me for offering. "Can I give it to you over the fence in the backyard?" I asked, so anxious was I to get it into her hands. But she thought it was too dark to see and said she'd call me on Saturday when she was at home. I have prayed for her salvation since we moved to this house in l997, but have had few opportunities to talk about Christ. O, God, may her heart be ready to receive the truth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Home alone!

This is Day 4 of being home alone! After an early Thanksgiving on the 10th I am still eating leftovers! Right now I'm working on the turkey soup. It's not fun to cook for one person so I'm glad for all these leftovers. Tomorrow is a holiday here so I'm breaking out of my turkey routine and going for....chicken! Wow! What a great relief that will be!

Friday, November 09, 2007

CREATIVE LEFSE-FOOD KIDS CAN PLAY WITH











Which kind of lefse is the best? a. The pale ghost, b. the sun-burned ghost, c. the "al naturale", d. the peek-a-boo

BEST KEPT SECRET


Now I know who discovered potato chips--the Norweigans. It happened when Lena was baking lefse on the iron range and before she knew it, the edges had become crisp and crunchy. I realize that "most" Norweigans (and maybe Swedes for all I know) like their lefse with sugar...BUT that day Lena had a senior moment and mistakenly put salt on the lefse instead of sugar and VOILÀ! She had made the first potato chip. I know because this happened to me on Wednesday when I was frying lefse. So, you see, the Norweigans invented the true baked potato chip and it was probably the French--who like everything fried in oil--who came up with the greasy, fatty, unhealthy potato chip most people eat today.

A MUST SEE

video

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Choice

Faith isn't a euphoric feeling that wells up inside. It is a choice to believe. To believe what God says. To believe what God says even though I don't feel like it. To believe what God says even though all circumstantial evidence points to the contrary.

Without faith it is impossible, that's right, impossible to please God.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tapioca


I remember tapioca as little, hard white balls that needed to be soaked before cooking them into a delicious pudding. I didn't know, then, as a child in far-off North Dakota, that tapioca came from the manioc root. On vacation we saw a sign advertising "Tapioca--made to order" and decided to have some. The girl serving us was from Bahia, a state famous for its tapioca. She had come to southern Brazil to go to college and one of her school projects was making regional foods from her state. The project took and she is still living in the south making food.

The way she made the tapioca was to fry it, and fill it with the traditional filling of coconut and condensed milk. It looks like a pale taco shell. It was oh, sooooooo yummy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Against all Odds

When Pat said he needed to get a visa for Paraguay, a plethora of negative emotions washed over me, reminding me of his aborted attempt in 2005. This time the secretary was nice on the phone, he'd said to me, canceling someone else's appointment to get him in at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. So we got up at 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning and drove to the Porto Alegre airport and it was 5:30 a.m. when I fell back into bed, only to be awakened two hours later by the phone. It was Pat. He was still at the airport and his news was sobering: The airport in Curitiba (his destination) was closed. His flight was being redirected to São Paulo, then back to Curitiba, only arriving in the afternoon. He would miss his appointment. Would I call the Paraguayan consulate and see if he could get another appointment that afternoon?
You'll have to talk to Melissa, the secretary told me when I called, because she's the one who set it up. Our office closes at 4:00, 4:30 for visas and passports. She won't be in until 10:30 this morning.
I called back at 10:45 and asked to speak to Melissa. She had already been briefed and her response was curt and polite. I can't see him this afternoon. I made an exception for him to come in at 11:30. I canceled another person to put him in. We close at 3:30 (!) He could come in tomorrow. I tried to explain that we had made our best effort to get there, getting up at 4:30 a.m., but things were out of our control, that tomorrow wouldn't work because he already had a ticket for São Paulo. She gave me another rehearsal of how nice she'd been to get him the 11:30 appointment. I'll have him call you, then, was my weak response, and hung up. I had not expected this, thinking they would be more accomodating, more understanding of the situation. I felt "serf-ish" and didn't like the feeling. My prayers throughout the day were pleading, whiney! I didn't fit in with the heroes of faith.
It was close to 10:00 p.m. when the phone rang again and Pat's voice beamed over the line. "I got my visa! It was a miracle! That's the only explanation for it," he said. His plane had finally landed in Curitiba at 2:30-ish, and the only baggage Pat had checked in was a box of books he was bringing as a favor for someone else. But where were they? He waited and waited, checking his watch as the minutes ticked away. Finally, in desperation, he said, "Just forget the books. I'll come back for them later," and that's when they showed up. But Pat was discouraged by this time and felt like giving up on the visa. It just didn't seem like it would work. He started thinking about the cost of returning--another $100 by bus, $260 by plane...and then another thought won out-- just try it anyway. After inquiring about a taxi and told it would cost him almost $30, he decided to take a bus for $5, even though he lost another 15 minutes. He walked into the consulate at 3:40 p.m. The secretary was there, pleasant and agreeable. The main secretary had left word to call her back when Pat arrived. There were forms to fill out and a pile of papers to be notorized at another location. Back to the consulate he flew, and the secretaries were still pleasant, not once threatening to close the office, not acting disgusted or irritated by the hour. And it was 5:50 p.m. when he walked out the door--with his visa in hand--totally amazed at what God had done!!
As Pat's words tumbled out over the phone, like the Psalmist David, my "mouth was filled with laughter, and [my] tongue with shouts of joy; then [I] said among the nations (to the Brazilians who were at my place for our cell group meeting when he called), 'The Lord has done great things for [Pat].' The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad." Psalm 126:2,3

Ático Restaurant! Check this out!




It looked impossible, but there it was--a huge eucaliptus tree hanging from the ceiling of the restaurant, its roots exposed. The tree is about 45 years old and weighs 20,5 tons, and if you want, you can walk right under it. The sinks in the bathrooms are made from a huge log as are chair and benches outside the restaurant. The wood obtained for the buildings was from trees in reforested areas and from fallen trees whose wood could be utilized.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Lacemakers

One day on our vacation we drove to Lake Conceição. There are several little shops where the "lacemakers" work. They make tablecloths, table runners, blouses & slacks, and other things. The lady in this video told me her mother taught her how to make lace when she was 10 years old...and, she added, that was 50 years ago. She is making a bookmark in the video.
video

Silent Movies

This movie was filmed by an "old" camera bought in 2003. I hope this works!
video

In Camaquã







Grandkids are great. Here´s some of the things we did while in Camaquã to celebrate my birthday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

On The Other Side

I figured it was about 7 p.m. last night that I actually turned into a senior citizen. The night before I was happy to remember that I had been born in the afternoon which gave me a few more hours. But the best part was remembering that there is a time difference between Brazil and the USA, giving me another three-hour reprieve! About 7 p.m. I was eating Mexican food--my first time in Brazil (and it wasn't all that authentic) when it happened--without pain, without great emotions. God's grace is always there when we need it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Surprise! Surprise!

Yes, my family pulled off a surprise party for me this afternoon! Pat called me to come sit on our front steps, and soon church people began appearing from many directions all at once carrying presents, flowers and cake and singing "Happy Birthday." The best surprise was that my two daughters and two grandchildren were among them, even though for them to get to our house, they had to ride a bus, a train, and a car.

I'm trusting that these expressions of love will help me over the threshold into the 60sssssss, although, as I write, I am still 59! I am still 59! I am still 59! I am still 59! I am still 59! I have 30 minutes left to be 59!

59 and slipping...

slipping, slipping...the big moment is only HOURS away when I will metamorph from a middle-ager to a senior citizen. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp. (I think I exaggerated on the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees). To ease the pain, my neighbor called me yesterday inviting us to their house for lunch today and my husband is taking me out for coffee and CHOCOLATE this afternoon and I will have this next week at the beach to wither in the sun until I am prune-like and can fit into my new role more comfortably. Oh, yes, and maybe I'll have time to look for a dashing cane when I'm not prostrate on the beach.

Was this a depressing blog?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Me and the Israelites

Was it a coincidence that this morning I read the account of the Israelites trapped between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army and this afternoon received an e-mail informing us that our health plan would be canceled as of November 30?
The biblical account states: "As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic and they cried out to the Lord for help." (Ex.14:10) How easily I criticized the Israelites this morning for their lack of faith. How blithely I condemned them. Didn't God say He would deliver them? So why didn't they just believe it? But this afternoon was different. I was tying my shoes, getting ready to go into town to do my walking when the "health plan" news came thundering into my ears like the pursuing Egyptian army and the $$ needed to get a new plan mounted like the waves in the Red Sea. I began to panic, too, and to cry out to the Lord for help. Later, walking the city streets, an old chorus came to mind and I began to sing outloud, "I believe God, I believe God, Ask what you will and it shall be done, Trust and obey, believe it and say,
I believe, I believe God, " and as I heard myself singing, I began to believe that God would indeed take care of us. After all, He always has.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Lived to Tell About It


Hanging out with young people makes one feel younger. (I think I know what I have to do, now, to deceive myself into believing I am young or, young-er). The campout was a great success--it was a rainy evening so everything happened indoors, but no one seemed to mind. After singing, hearing a timely and inovative word from I John 2:15-17 by Pat, they devoured hot dogs and then started on the games. By this time it was midnight....and the games and fun continued until about 4 a.m. I wasn't around for that part, although when I fell into bed around 1:30 a.m. my eyeballs wouldn't shut and I was serenaded by the sounds of laughter, occasional singing, and loud talking from below our bedroom. There weren't enough mattresses to go around, but the kids didn't mind sleeping on top of blankets and when I woke up, silence reigned. After a rowdy breakfast and more singing, I invited them to gather around my computer to sing "Happy Birthday" to my Mom via skype. (Today is her 93rd birthday). It was so cool...we singing from so far away and Mom hearing us in North Dakota. She was laughing and enjoying how they said her name,Deely.

Would I do this again, you ask. You betcha.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will I Survive This Night?

Tonight the youth group will descend on our house for an overnight, indoor campout. I've never done this before so I don't know what awaits me. At last count there may be 15 young people here to spend the night. Should be interesting, to say the least. If I don't write tomorrow, check the obituaries.

D-Day - 10

I'm on a countdown to my last days in this decade...it's a bit scary and, at times unbelieveable, that this is really happening to me. Where did my life go? I'm trying to come up with something significant to do these last 10 days! What shall it be?

Monday, October 08, 2007

GET SOME REST!

That's an order from Jesus..."Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and GET SOME REST." (Mark 6:31b) It doesn't seem like a difficult order to obey, but have you ever tried jumping off a roller coaster?
Today I feel the need to get some rest after an intense week of preparing for Missions Month in church that officially began last night. Some indicators that I needed to rest: (1) I didn't wake up when my hubby had a coughing fit in the middle of the night, (2) When he couldn't go back to sleep and turned on the TV, I didn't blink an eye, (3) While reading the Bible, I kept waking up with my chin resting on my chest , (4) I decided to lie down to read a great chapter on faith and reason by C.S. Lewis and woke up at 11:30 when my hubby came upstairs looking for lunch. (We eat--supposedly--at 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I leave for my water aerobics class at noon.) My afternoon was a bit more productive, but I am looking forward to a relaxing evening--in a prone position, of course.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Prayer of a Righteous Man











Today I participated in the Jesus March held in Porto Alegre. Hundreds of Christians marched down the streets singing praise to God, and together we interceded for our civic leaders as we stood in front of the Governor's Palace, the city hall and the state supreme court. James 5.17 says that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Imagine, then, the power of hundreds of people praying together for God's intervention in our city. Like Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, we pray "Hear from heaven...and forgive the sin of your people..."
These happy young people are part of our youth group who participated today.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ownership











I can't get enough of spring's flowers. I often feel like my neighbor who told me, "These flowers are so beautiful I could eat them!" These deliciously fragrant purple & white flowers grow on the same bush...how's that for ingenuity on God's part? I call these red flowers bottle brushes, but instead of being stiff and bristly they are surprisingly soft and give your nose a gentle tickle.And then, these purple flowers are from a very tall tree not far from home. Each branch holds out a bouquet and the total effect is absolutely stunning. The orchids dispense commentaries.
It's natural to want to own the beautiful things we see, but I've found that I can enjoy the beautiful things all around me without owning them. In fact, years ago on a trip with our band we were put up in a beautiful lake home complete with a row boat. I immediately began "wishing" I owned a place like that. Then God very lovingly whispered in my ear, "I'm letting you enjoy these beautiful things without the worry and work that comes with owning them." It was a liberating thought that day, and it still is.