Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our summer in pictures

I know I have done a terrible job of keeping our blog up to date.  Being away from the work in Brazil makes it harder for me to write about what's going on there, so if you want to know more about the ministry there, check out Christen's blog at www.taylors4brazil.blogspot.com.  

We've had a fun summer, but I won't go into all the details.  Here are some pictures to summarize the past couple of months.

David was the missionary speaker for teen boys' week at Mountain View Bible Camp in VA.
Hiking up a mountain with the boys.

The kids enjoyed meeting new friends during camp week.
Watching movies

Getting ready for fireworks to celebrate July 4th

Pictures don't do them justice

David's sister Rachel came to spend a few days with us.

We got to go to the Andy Griffith museum in Mt. Airy.

The kids and I have gone to the nearby public library for story time and different events, like firetruck day.

Celebrating our anniversary Kanpai-style.  So good ...
8 years!

Hanging out at the pool

Celebrating birth (the daughter of a childhood friend of mine)

and birthdays. 

Thanks, Aunt Leah, for the cupcakes with blue icing ... :)
Gabriel is into superheroes these days.

Doing some fishing

Hanging out with family
So that's it in a nutshell.  Most weekends we have been presentng the work in Brazil in one of our supporting churches.  Pray for us as we head out to Illinois and Iowa.  Enjoy your last few weeks of summer!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In everything give thanks. Really?

New friends
I have struggled with knowing what to blog about while we're on furlough.  Life just keeps moving along in the normal routine-ness of daily living.  Our ministry obligations have changed, obviously, so there's not much to report about our work in Brazil.  Christen, my sister-in-law, does a great job of
updating their blog about the church in Brazil, so if you're interested in that, check out her blog at www.taylors4brazil.blogspot.com

At the Smithsonian
We had a great family trip a couple of weeks ago where we spent a few days in Washington, D.C. riding the metro and seeing some sights, and then we went on to Delaware where we got to spend some really special days with some friends who support our ministry, as well as present our work in a supporting church nearby. 
Fun at a party

Fun in the pool
God really blessed us on our trip.  The kids behaved really well overall, we had very encouraging spiritual conversations with our friends and played some killer rounds of Farkle with them, we got to do a lot of fun stuff, the church we were in was very gracious to us, and all these gifts from God we accepted with eager, almost greedy, outstretched hands. 

We returned home around 2 in the morning, tired but happy and spiritually refreshed.  But then as we drove down our gravel road, David stopped and pointed out that our front door was standing open and there were lights on in the house.  We immediately called the police and they came and examined the house before we went in to see what damage had been done.  Thankfully, it was not as bad as it could have been, but the thief did manage to find the cash that we had set aside towards the purchase of a car and a few days later, David noticed that the external hard drive was gone too.

It was a frustrating way to end our little trip, and suddenly, it was very easy to forget all the blessings that we had received so eagerly during the past week.  We have been robbed several times throughout the years.  I've had things ranging from an old towel to a car stolen from me.  And everytime, there is that feeling of indignation that rises up inside of me -- "How DARE they!!"  There is that feeling of being violated, the creepy feeling of someone having been in my house, opening drawers, picking through our stuff, selecting what they want from our possessions as if it's their right to take from us what we worked hard to earn and save.  It can be infuriating if I dwell on those thoughts for too long. 
But amazingly, we were both pretty calm about it this time.  We have been growing in our trust in God's sovereignty and this was a perfect chance to test what we claim to believe.  Like Job said (in my words), are we only willing to accept all the good things God has to offer and not the bad things He brings our way?  (Job 2:10) What?  Does God bring bad things into our lives on purpose?  How is that kind and loving and merciful?  How does that match up with His righteous character?  And another question is, should I thank God for all the blessings I receive, but not thank Him for what I see as ... un-blessings?  Does Scripture ever make an exception for what I should thank God for?  I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God ..."  I don't see an exception clause in there.  "In everything, (except those things which you don't like or appreciate) give thanks."  This is a truth I have been slowly learning recently as well as I work through a book on that very subject.  Amazing, isn't it, how God teaches us a truth theoretically through His Word and through teachers who have grasped that truth, and then takes us on a field trip to give us a chance for hands-on learning, to put into practice that which we claim to believe so firmly. 

So I'm blessed that I serve a God who is good and righteous, who ordains all the details of my life, and who expects my gratitude for the good and bad.  Because in the end, I think I will look back and think, "what bad?" because it will all have been worth it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Confessions of a missionary wife on furlough

Furlough ... "a temporary leave of absence."  I think it's mostly a blessing ... It is nice to have a change of pace and a change of scenery and see people for the first time in years who have been an important part of our lives.  It's fun to shop in the States -- really fun.  The variety and great prices are wonderful.  If you live here, don't take that for granted.  What I would give for a Lifeway, a Kohl's, a WalMart, a Target or even a Dollar Store in Brazil.  Don't laugh at me because I'm pretty sure you would miss those places too if you no longer lived near them. 

And don't even get me started on the deals at thrift shops for practically brand new stuff that people just give away.  Incredible.  It's fun to go to the public library, the public parks, and all the variety of restaurants.  (In Brazil, I REALLY miss Mexican restaurants, mainly because of the chips and salsa.  I'm already a little sad just thinking about going without that for another four years.)

 Housework is easier in the States, too.  For whatever reason, houses do not seem to get so dirty as quickly, and therefore do not need to be cleaned as often.  Cooking is easier, doing laundry is easier, and doing dishes is easier.  (Yes, I am also a little sad thinking about not having a dish washer once we get back to Brazil. Can we say, spoiled?) 

There are some things that are harder here, though.  Like, pumping your own gas.  Haha, seriously, why do Americans have to get out and pump their own gas?  That is a luxury Brazilians enjoy and I have to say, I kind of miss that.  The whole weight gain thing is hard too.  Maybe that's because of all the chips and salsa and the easy housework.  And what is up with the coffee here?  I'm just saying ...

But on a more serious side, there are some aspects of furlough that I am struggling with.  It's not easy being in a different church on a regular basis, especially with our children.  It's hard enough to feel slightly pressured to be prepared for meetings and present our work in Brazil well to those who have partnered with us, but then you add in the variable of children, and well, it can get tough.  Why my kids choose the worst possible moments to be on their worst behavior is beyond me, but let's just say that I've had to fight back tears more than once because of how my children were acting in church.  And since I'm the missionary's wife, it probably wouldn't look good if I were to lose it in front of our supporting churches, even if one (or both) of my children is kicking (yes) and crying and screaming not to go into their class or running like crazy little people in the sanctuary and messing with the instruments and jumping off the stage (thankfully, this is not during the service). 

I struggle between missing my life in Brazil and everything that goes with it -- our friends, our ministry, our house, our familiar routine -- and being worried that our time on furlough is going by too fast and soon we'll have to leave the States and all the blessings of living here.  I appreciate meeting new people at our supporting churches and getting together over a meal with new and old friends, but I do not enjoy feeling the pressure of making sure my kids are behaving a certain way or that we are saying the right things.  Perhaps that pressure is self-imposed and I'm working on that because I realize that I cannot be perfect and the only One who is completely perfect knows my heart and understands my struggles and is there to help me when I am fighting feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

Recently, I bought a kids' cd for Gabriel and Juliana to listen to on our trips.  The songs are a little ... ok, a lot ... cheesy, but the words of one song kind of stood out to me.

When the sun shines bright and your heart is light,
Jesus is the Friend you need;
When the clouds hang low in this world of woe,
Jesus is the Friend you need.

 I liked the reminder that I need Jesus by my side regardless of whether I'm enjoying a fun outing with people I love dearly or whether I'm fighting tears of frustration over a situation that I am completely helpless to do anything about.  After all, isn't God the One who has ordained everything for my life?  Don't both good and bad work together to make me look more like Jesus?  And so, I pray that our furlough experiences, just like every other life experience, point me always back to Jesus and that I'm not too caught up enjoying my chips and salsa to see His hand in every thing that comes my way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We have been back in the States for over a week now.  It's been a lot of fun.  I'm just going to post some pictures with a brief explanation that kind of summarize the last 10 days or so.  

We are thankful for friends who came to say goodbye the day before we left.  It feels good to know you are loved and will be missed. 

Gabe was so excited to go on his first plane ride that he can remember.  We are thankful for safe flights and smooth traveling.
I am thankful for my little boy who loves super heroes.  This was in the Rio airport during our long layover.

I'm thankful for family who got up super early to be at the airport to welcome us back.

Starbucks ... yes, I'm thankful for that.  Had to stop there on the way home from the airport.

Our home church has graciously provided a beautiful, furnished house for us to live in during our furlough.  The kitchen table was piled with fun groceries and gifts from people in the church. I'm thankful for how the body of Christ shows love for each other in such tangible ways.

Per my request, my family went to a Mexican restaurant the first night we were back.  Chips and salsa ... how can you not be thankful for that?  Try going without it for 4 years, and then you'll understand.
I'm very thankful for my precious little girl who turned 2 on Sunday.  We had a party for her at a very crazy, crowded, loud Chuck E. Cheese's. 

I'm so thankful that I got to be here to see my dad baptize both my brother and my oldest nephew. 

My parents and siblings -- together again after 5 years or so.  I'm thankful for each of them and the fact that I can be near them for the next few months.

Here are some other things that I've been very thankful for this week that I don't have pictures for:

* Having a car to borrow while we look for one to buy

* Parks and libraries to take the kids to (for free)

* Wal Mart and Target :)

* A bag of groceries left anonymously at our doorstep one morning

* An old friend bringing bags of groceries and staying to talk for a few hours

* A cool phone provided by friends who have added us to their plan while we're here

* A dishwasher

* The kindness of random strangers

* Hearing about one of our church ladies in Brazil teaching Bible stories in her child's public school

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Four years ago, David and I landed in Brazil with our six-month-old baby Gabriel, pretty much clueless as to what the next four years would be like for our little family.  Now we are heading "home" for our first furlough and I can only praise God for his constant presence and direction in our lives.  To be very honest, if it weren't for our hope in God and our confidence that he has placed us here for now, we would probably have given up and left Brazil long before now.  But he is gracious, our Strength and our Provider, and it has been an honor to serve HIM these past four years.  Sometimes it feels like our efforts have been so meager in comparison to the overwhelming need all around us, but each soul who is converted and transformed by the power of the gospel is so very precious.  Each little seed of truth that is planted in a cold, lifeless heart has the potential to sprout and grow.  I know our work has not been in vain and only God knows the full effect the gospel will have in this spiritually dark place. 
Right now, I am praising God for building his church here in São José.  It has been so encouraging these past few months to see our little group grow spiritually, and also in numbers.  There were moments of (not so) quiet desperation in my heart that God didn't seem to be working, at least not the way I wanted him to and had asked him to.  There were times of deep discouragement for us as it seemed like prayers were going unanswered.  But all along, God was there with us, the Holy Spirit quietly strengthening and comforting us, encouraging us in unexpected ways, and lifting us up so that we could keep fighting this battle we're in for the lost. 

The past few weeks have flown by as we get ready to leave for furlough.  Here are some pictures of some happenings around here this past month. 

David went to Rio de Janeiro to speak at a youth retreat -- 8 messages in 5 days on living a cross-centered life
Our church group went on a one-day retreat ...

David's got ups!  :)

Exploring the camp site

Last Wednesday night, the power went out right before the service, so we all went to a member's house close by.  I had the intimidating task of teaching 20 kids, ages 1-12, in the living room but thankfully I had the help of several women for crowd control. 
The kids have been earning points for different things and Wednesday night was their awards night.

This is most of our church group, minus one family, who was there Wednesday night.  How would you like to unexpectedly host this number of people in your home for a church service?   

Having café da tarde with our sweet neighbor who, along with her family, has been such a blessing to our ministry.

Having last visit opportunities with our church people.  This past week, every night we either had someone over or were at church. 

Ladies' meeting on Saturday afternoon.  Our hostess invited some of her unsaved neighbors to join us, and two of them came.  One of them asked to host the next meeting at her house.

Sunday night we were encouraged to have 45 people in attendance at church.  We also had communion and the church people graciously surprised us with a going-away party for us afterward. 

Thank you to those of you who have faithfully prayed for us and supported us during our first term.  I know it's cliche, but it's true that we couldn't have done it without your help.  We look forward to seeing many of you soon!