Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent 2011

Black Friday is over and yet something tells me the mad rush has only begun.  What are you most eagerly waiting for this Christmas?  Better yet - what are you functionally waiting for this Christmas - sure we say one thing, but our hearts scream another. Things that compete for my joy once again this year are gifts, yummy foods, family fun, christmas tunes, and a thriving church (by that I mean a church full of people).  All wonderful gifts from God, but all pseudo joys. 

This year we have developed an advent guide to use with our church.  It is designed to help us build a sense of anticipation and waiting for two events.  One which has already happened and one which is to come.  Christ has come, and yet we want to help one another feel like Israel did as they awaited a King.  At the same time - we realize we now await a more glorious event - the coming of our Savior - redemption from these mortal bodies and joy with Him forever in heaven!

If you would like a guide like ours to help you and your family think heavenward this year, the village church has a great guide online which you can download and print off here.  It is of utmost importance that we as leaders and fathers guide our children to consider Christ above all this season.  It is our one and only joy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratidão (Gratitude)

Thanksgiving Day is not celebrated here in Brazil.  Maybe it is a uniquely American holiday, I don't know.  I'm planning on putting up my Christmas decorations and maybe making a special meal for our little family in honor of Thanksgiving Day this week, but it's just not the same as celebrating with a bunch of family and friends with that big huge feast spread out on the table, and the separate side table filled with all the yummy desserts.  I want to list a few things that I'm thankful for -- big gifts and little gifts, but all of them special because they come from the hand of a loving God who cares about each one of his children.

* A visit from my sister Jonna.  We haven't seen each other since 2008, and the 9 days she was here were hardly long enough to get caught up.  It was so fun to show her around our city and introduce her to our ministry and have her help with the music and go shopping together and stay up late every single night in good conversation.  Her trip was really a special gift from God to our family.

Here we are drinking freshly squeezed sugar cane juice with lime.  If you've never had this, come visit us -- we'll hook you up.  :)

 * Root beer floats.  Ok, so this would be one of the smaller gifts, but still, I'm thankful for it.  Jonna brought us, I mean, David, some root beer and Dr. Pepper.  He was so kind to share it with me.  :)  Wow, it was so good. 

* New clothes for our kids.  Again, Jonna brought us several items of clothes for both Gabriel and Juliana.  Some were from her, some from a friend, some from Christen, my sis-in-law.  That was such a big blessing.  God knew what we needed and he provided.  Even a fun Superman outfit for Gabriel who wears it al the time.

* Renewed interest in a couple of people who left our group quite a while back.  It's interesting because these two were the first two to join our studies back when we were beginning in 2009.  It  was a painful loss to have both of them walk away, but recently they have come back around.  I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit who continues to work in people's hearts even when we think that there's nothing else we can do.  The woman who came back said that she was in several churches the past few months, and she missed hearing about Jesus.  She said it was so good to come back to our church with her boyfriend and be able to hear God's Word being taught and to hear about Jesus. 
Going out for pizza with some church people, including the woman I mentioned and her boyfriend on the left.  Pray that God will be working in both of their hearts.

After-church fellowship.  
* Our church kids.  We really have a great group of kids.  Sure, they have their moments and it's almost impossible to keep them completely quiet during lesson time, but I know that they are learning and growing in their knowledge of God and the Bible.   Most of the ones who come walk over 2 km to get to church.  The mother of one of the girls told me that her school teacher asked her one day, "Are you a Christian?"  When the girl answered yes, the teacher said, "I thought so."  I don't know what prompted the teacher to ask that, but I know the kids try to live in a way that pleases Jesus.  Please pray for our little group of kids, that those who haven't been saved yet will place their trust in Christ soon and that they will all grow up into godly young people, spared from the scars of a life lived without Christ. 
Gotta love those beautiful faces.

* Gabriel and Juliana.  They are so different from each other, but they both make me laugh and teach me things about life and about myself that I never knew.  Things like how my heart can hurt when a friend hurts their feelings; how feeding a very picky 20-month-old can be more challenging than finals in school, how proud my heart feels when someone compliments my son on being kind and sharing, how preciously sweet it is to see my little girl run to David and say, "book! book!" and snuggle in his lap to leaf through her favorite book.  

 * My husband.  We celebrated 7 years of marriage in July.  I think that working together in ministry these past few years has caused us to grow closer to each other.  It's exciting to be working towards the same goals together.  I'm grateful for David's generosity, his willingness to help people even when it's inconvenient for him, his passion to teach and preach and share God's Word, the fact that he eats anything I cook for him, that he doesn't complain when the dishes and/or laundry have piled up, and many other things I could list.

God is good.  I need to step back sometimes when things are hard and discouraging and analyze all that God is and has done for me.  I quickly see how much God's hand is evident in every aspect of my life.  What has he done for you this year?