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


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


Emily diz:
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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


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


Bethlehem Blue

I want to go caroling...

...or make a snowman!

I remember my one-room school house!



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


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


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


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.


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...