We have so much to be thankful for this Christmas. Christmas Eve, we followed the Brazilian tradition, and had our big meal that evening. Brazilians do theirs at midnight but we decided to do it early! Christmas Day we had brunch at James parents house with Pr. Claudine and his family. We had their kids join ours in our annual tradition of acting out the Christmas story. It was very special.
Jeremiah loves making noise with his new instruments.
This year we were so blessed to have two churches in America adopt our family for Christmas. It was so much fun to see what they picked out. Everything we got was perfect for the person.
Candy Land was a big hit!
Princess Hannah showing off her new Jewelry!
This is view of some of the kitchen items we got! The Texas Chili was a special surprise!
Scented candles were of course my favorite! (As well as the snowmen pillows!! They match my couch perfectly.)
James was overjoyed with his super large jar of CRUNCHY peanut butter! We have all ENJOYED many peanut butter sandwiches and lots of special desserts that we have missed since we arrived in the "land without peanut butter!"
Thank you to all who made Christmas so special this year!
Friday Night we had the honor of watching our firstborn son graduate from Kindergarten. We can hardly believe how quickly he has grown.
Part of the program included two songs played on the bells. Daniel loved to play them and did so with precision! Daniel began school here in Brazil in July and has really learned a lot. His teacher tells us he is ready for first grade and that he is speaking fluent Portuguese. He memorized Ps. 23 in Portuguese and several songs for the program. It is really neat to watch him concentrate and then communicate all that is necessary.
Daniel loves school and was so sad to hear he will have a 2 month break. He was in a class of about 24 children and most of them will be with him next year. This is Daniel's wonderful teacher, Tia Carol. We praise the Lord for her. We believe God really used her in helping Daniel to adjust to Brazil.
He does so in huge ways and during those time we just fall down in awe of Him. Like at the moment of salvation, when we realize how hopelessly guilty we are of innumerable sins; and yet He calls us to Himself, washes us with His blood and then calls us sons and daughters.
Other times He blesses us in ways so small we don't even take the time to notice or thank Him, like every breath we take or the sweet, "Mommy, I love you so much."
There are constant evidences of His grace in our lives. I want to be more aware of His hand working out all the tiniest details of my life and then praising Him for His grace!
I have so many blessings that I cannot name them all. I do want to mention a few. 1. A Christmas Tree - Somewhere I heard there were no live Christmas trees in Brazil. James and I have always gone out the weekend after Thanksgiving and picked out a tree and decorated the house for Christmas. I was so disappointed that this year we would have to have a fake tree. Well, we found a real tree! In Brazil, it is illegal to cut a tree down so our tree has roots and all! It is very healthy and isn't dropping needles everywhere. I cannot express how much of a blessing this tree is to me.
2. Portuguese - I have now completed one semester of Portuguese. I have learned so much and can communicate basic information. I understand a lot more than I can speak. Daniel is graduating from Brazilian Kindergarten on Friday, and is speaking great. It is so neat to hear him talking with the kids as he plays. (This is his graduation announcement.) Hannah is using more and more words. The other day while taking a bath she was making up songs with Portuguese words.
3. Christmas - I am so thankful for this time of year where we can contemplate all that Christ did for us. John 1:10-11 keeps running through my mind, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." It is already so amazing that God would come down to us in human form; but it is even more amazing knowing He came to a people who would reject Him. The kids and I have been doing an advent calendar everyday where we read more of the Christmas story each day and put up pictures that correlate with the most recent part of the story. I think it has really kept their focus on Christ instead of all that the world offers. They have already memorized Matt. 1:21 as well as 4 of the names of Christ and what they teach us about Him, (Light of the World, Lion of Judah, Bread of Life, & Living Water.)
4. Sharing the Gospel with Nilda - My last day of Portuguese was Friday. As I struggled with what I could give her for a gift, my mind keep going to Christ. I decided to read through Scripture with her and lay out the entire plan of salvation. James and I have both shared different things about salvation with her but never layed it all out with the Bible. I got my list of verses and a Portuguese Bible. I read in Portuguese but held the Bible where she could read it too (so she would still understand even as I mispronounced words.) Then, I explained things in English. The whole time I just prayed that God would use His Word to pierce her heart. She took home my list of verses and I gave her an English Bible with the plan of salvation underlined and asked her to read it over the Holiday. This leads me to Blessing 5...
5. The Word of God - I am so thankful that God has preserved His Word for us. I praise Him that it is living and powerful, piercing even unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. As I see ALL the many needs of the people we are working with, I find myself praying for God to draw them to His Word and thus to Himself. I am so thankful that He changes hearts and lives and I don't have to try to. I feel like I could talk until I was blue in the face and still not make progress but if I quote or share His words, it pierces and divides. That is why I decided to share Scripture with Nilda. My words won't change her, His will! 6. My Family -I have been able to stay in such close contact with my family because of the internet. I hardly feel like I am 8,000 miles away. We use Skype which allows us to video call each other over the internet and so we see each other all the time! Add this to email and of course Blogging and we are as up to date with each other as if we were living in the same town (almost!) I am also thankful for James' parents who have been such a blessing to us over the past 6 months. Helping all of us to adjust, running us all over Curitiba to get documents taken care of, watching the kids so James and I can go on a date!
7. YOU - All of you out there that pray for us and encourage us and support us. We are forever amazed at the love we have received from the Family of God. We love every email, Christmas Card, book, deodorant, zip lock bag and peanut butter jar you have sent us! Just knowing you are there, praying for us and loving us encourages us more than you will ever know! Thank you so very much.
All of my life I struggled with the sin of trying to please people. Often my joy, peace and total demeanor was controlled by peoples response to me. If they liked me and were happy with what I was doing, I was on cloud 9. If they were critical or confronted me about something I had done wrong, I was crushed.
Deputation was a little difficult. I struggled often with trying to fit in and please all the new people I met. God began working on my heart during this time and challenged me seek to please Him above all.
What no one ever told me, was that the hardest part about being a missionary is that I will never actually "fit in."
For some reason, that thought never entered my mind. I have known many "foreigners" in America and I don't recall feeling different about them that anyone else. I would never had called them "foreigners."
I am experiencing now that I CANNOT please people here. This is not because of something that I am doing but simply because of WHO I am; an American, a foreigner. In their eyes I am different. My kids are different. We cannot say certain things to them. They treat each of us differently than they treat each other.
So, God is continuing to teach me that I cannot live my life striving to please people. God created me to glorify Him. He is the one I need to seek to please.
I am here in Brazil because He led me here. I am here to serve Him. I am to serve Him even if people don't "like" me or even want me here.
This is what no one ever told me about being a missionary.
This weekend, James and I were able to attend the graduation festivities for the Seminary here. One of the men who works in our church was graduating. Thursday night we were able to go the banquet with Rude and Marina. It was so neat to hear the testimonies of the graduates; how God burdened their hearts for ministry and how He is preparing them to serve Him full time.
Rude (pronounced Who-gee)
We have loved serving at Nova Vida with this couple and will miss them. They have servants hearts and are never without smiles on their faces. James and Rude rode together on Tuesday nights to play soccer with the men from church. They had many edifying talks. We also had the privilege of taking them to church many times over the past few months.
Marina with her Escola Dominical Aula (S.S. Class)
Marina has been a special blessing to me. She is the ONE person at church that speaks English. I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been to be able to ask a question and understand the answer. She was always willing to translate for me if I needed help. She became a dear friend and I cannot express how much I will miss this sister in the Lord.
Marina, Jeremiah and Me at the Graduation
We are excited that Rude and Marina will be doing a 6month - 1 year internship with a Brazilian missionary in the Amazon area. We will miss them dearly but know that God will use them mightily for His glory wherever they serve.
Jeremiah and Grandpa at Graduation (I couldn't resist putting in this cute picture of Jeremiah, it was his first time in a suit!)