Saturday, September 13

Apartment Saga...and God's goodness

Let me start off by explaining that it's more difficult to rent an apartment in Brazil than it is to buy one. And I had not idea of this when I began the hunt for an apartment in the city 3 1/2  weeks ago! My first problem was that I went into the apartment hunting process with my American mindset. I thought I'd go look at several apartments over the course of a couple days, choose the one I liked, sign the papers, move and be done. Not so. My first indication that this may take longer than normal... (what is normal here anyway? there I go again trying to "americanize" my life in Brasil!) ...was that the real estate company - where you pick up the keys to look at any apartment - didn't have the keys to any of the apartments I wanted to see. So I came back the next day when they said they would have them...only to go to the first apartment and discover that the keys they gave me didn't work. Ok. Back to the realtor to explain. Keep in mind that things just take longer in Brazil. So I was lucky if I got to see two apartment in an afternoon. After going to the realtor's office, them copying my documents (Brazilian id, etc) and me signing a document saying I'm taking the keys but I promise to bring them back (at least that's what I assume it says...) and then finding the apartment amidst the construction and myriad of one way streets that are always going the wrong direction where you need to turn... Suffice it to say that everything just takes more time here.

So I finally settled on an apartment that was basically one block from my colleagues and one block from some other missionary friends. Perfect location right?!? So I asked the realtor to send me what they needed from me in order for me to rent this apartment. Here's the list:

Copy of my Brazilian ID card and RGE (which is like our SS card, I think)
Copies of my last 3 paychecks
Proof of income (w2)
And find one co-signer who has two houses paid off or two co-signers each with one house paid off and they also need to provide these documents along with their marriage certificate, house documents, etc, etc, etc.

Wow. To rent an apartment! So I got to work gathering these document and finding co-signers and took it all in to the realtor. My second indication that this may take longer than "normal" was when I explained that my paychecks and this proof of income was all in USD because I receive my salary from the US. They didn't fully understand that so they said they needed to see proof of income in Brazil. I said I don't pay taxes in Brazil so I don't have the document that they want to see. Then they said they would probably need to see my last 3 Brazilian bank statements showing this money arriving in Brazil...but they would let me know. Turns out that about 3 days later they requested exactly that. So I scraped up my last 3 Brazilian bank statements - at their request - that showed deposits equaling my paychecks to use as proof of my income in Brazil. And I waited. In full I waited almost 3 weeks to hear from them since I first gave them my initial documents.

Yesterday (September 12) I passed one month of being back in Brazil. And yesterday around 4pm Brazil time I got my response from the realtor. I was denied because I failed to show proof of income in Brazil. It was too late in the day to call them back to get clarification so now I wait until Monday. I'm not sure what the issue is. If it the amount of my salary or the type of document I used to prove my salary here in Brazil - which was at their request. Either way I am desperately clinging to what I know to be Truth...God is in control.

Today I was reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9 which says, "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

The notes in my study bible say this:

"The people is Israel were foolish to act as if they knew what God was thinking and planning. His knowledge and wisdom are far greater than man's. We are foolish to try to fit God into our mold - to make his plans and purposes conform to ours. Instead we must strive to fit into his plans."

How convicting when I think of all the plans I was making to move soon and how I was trying to fit God into those plans! Foolishness! So today I'm choosing to simply rest in His goodness that I still have a great place to live in this time of waiting. And that my landlord lowered my rent because He wants me to stay longer. And that God alone is Sovereign. There's a song that has become my favorite lately...and now I understand why. Here are some of the words:

You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understand
You're teaching us to trust

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens
Reaching down in endless grace

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.

If you've made it this far in this blog...congratulations!!! I'd love to hear your experiences of waiting on the Lord.

Here's the song if you're interested:

Monday, September 8

Mirage of the Perfect Missionary

This is an excerpt from an article about missionary moms that I read recently. The whole article is good however, I felt like the part below also applied to I removed the word "mom" and thought I'd share. 

"The mirage of the perfect missionary is alluring and dangerous. If you try to follow it, you will be perpetually discouraged, depressed, and exhausted. On the flip side, if you feel like you are the perfect missionary, you will be perpetually arrogant, haughty, and annoying.

What would change if you forgot the mirage of the perfect missionary and started remembering the Perfect One instead?

Remember, his burden is light.

He is the Lord of Rest, the Bridegroom, longing for his Bride.

He is not a taskmaster, demanding more widgets.

He is a loving Husband, pursuing his favorite girl.

He is a tender Father, splashing in the ocean with his children.

He is a Warrior, protecting his people.

He is a Comforter who really sees.

He knows you are human, and he’s glad about it.

He knows you can’t do it all, and he’s ok with it.

He is jealous for you, longing for your whole heart.

He wants your gaze fixed on him, not the mirage.

The next time you’re tempted to criticize another missionary/person, lay down your weapon and state what they are doing instead of what they're not doing?

Before you criticize yourself, identify and declare what you are doing instead of what you’re not doing.

Are you doing what you feel like God has led you to do? Wonderful! The Body of Christ needs you to do that. The mission field need you to do that. Your team needs you to do that."

Monday, March 17

March 2014 Prayer Update

Dear Friends, 

I wanted to send out a quick update so you can know what's been happening in my life and so that you can pray. First let me interject...

Thank you so much for praying for me!

I don't take that for granted and I am grateful for your partnership in prayer.

Recently I spent a week at Pioneers to debrief my first couple years in Brazil and what a refreshing week that was! I was able to reconnect with some friends that I never get to see as well as begin new friendships. I left very grateful for the wisdom, partnership and counsel of my mission agency. And very grateful for all the ways God's been good to me over these past 2+ years. This song played in my mind all week long. If God does nothing more for me in my lifetime, I can still say that He's been so good to me. 

One topic that really stuck with me from that week is the discipline of (or for me, the lack of...) "Practicing the Presence of God." In other words, allowing myself to just be still before Him. "So often we try to hear from God on the run," the speaker said. He encouraged us to "begin with 5 minutes of silent prayer - becoming aware by faith of God's indwelling Presence and humbly asking the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart through scripture, personal reflection and the insights of others." I began to develop this discipline as they built time in our schedule for us to "practice His Presence." I can say at first it wasn't easy...and it's still not easy some days...but I find that when I am "still" in this way before Him, I just want to linger in His Presence. And I think that's His desire, too. 

Psalm 62:5..."Let all that I am wait quietly
before God, for my hope is in him. "

Here are some ways you can pray for me: 

1. This Sunday, March 16, I will be sharing about Brazil and singing at my old church here in Iowa. Pray that God would allow me to make meaningful connections at this church and that I could be an encouragement to them.  

2. In the middle of April I will be traveling to the West Coast to visit with supporters and friends and to also hopefully connect with some new people about my ministry in Brazil. Pray for me as I continue to finalize my travel plans and pray that my time there would be fruitful.

3. Lastly, my departure date of June 4 is rapidly approaching...please pray that God would bring in all my needed support by the end of May. Currently I'm short $757/month. Would you pray with me for new monthly financial supporters? Or if you currently support me financially, would you prayerfully consider increasing your support? Here's a manageable breakdown: if 15 people would commit to supporting me at $50/month, or 7 people would commit to supporting me at $100/month, this would be over! God can do this! 

If you'd like to learn more about becoming a part of my financial support team please let me know via email at  

As always, I'd love to be able to pray for you. Would you jot me a note telling me how I can do that? 

Thanks so much!


Wednesday, May 9

When You Become A Bad Person

“What happens when trying to follow Jesus turns you into an awful person?” It’s an honest question that came into my mind recently. It was a question born from another disappointing day.

A day when I spoke too harshly to those I love. A day when I was hot and annoyed and impatient.  A day when I wanted to hide inside my house by myself instead of interacting with anyone. A day when I felt sorry for myself and generally ungrateful and really just wanted to

Go. Home.

And then I read this in a blog: What if the men who dropped nets to follow Jesus, became awful people in the process? What if they were more cheerful and less angry when they were just normal fishermen?

Because I dropped nets.  And here I am. And I feel a whole lot awfuler.

And, somehow, I don’t think that’s what following Jesus should look like.  I mean, you step out in love and faith, and it’s supposed to make you a better person, right?  A more loving friend, a better daughter, a gentler soul? But what if your pursuit of the better makes you just worser in the process?

But, then I thought of Peter, and this crappy missionary tasted a small bite of hope. Because this fisherman-turned-disciple seemed like a fairly awful person at times over his three years walking after Jesus.  He spoke too quickly and too harshly, and one time, Jesus himself equated him with Satan {not the best person to be compared to}.  And, at the end, when it really counted, Peter bailed on Jesus completely.  And that all seems pretty awful.

But the hope-part comes when we look into the last half of Peter’s life.  After Jesus had left, this big fisherman became Something Else entirely — inspirational, powerful, better.

And I got to thinking that maybe it’s not that the awful in his life {or in ours} was birthed by the journey away from the docks. Maybe the ugly was always there, but with the heat rising and the comforts being stripped, it just sloshed out more often and in bigger amounts.

And that is most definitely something I can identify with– the ugly spilling out more often and in bigger amounts.

And I don’t have answers {again} except to say that greater awfulness was most definitely not something I expected when trying to follow and obey and love.

But, then again, maybe the greater awful is just a gateway into Something Else.

Too bad it feels like such a stinkin’-long gateway.

Tuesday, May 8

Stressed-Out Missionary

(I came across a blog recently written by a fellow missionary and a couple of the posts spoke directly to my heart. Here’s the first of two that I will adapt to me. So if you’ll read this post, and the next in the days to come, you’ll get a pretty good glimpse of where my heart and life are at this exact moment. And you’ll know how to pray.)

I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of being in Brazil. And the one thing I can say with all honesty is that...

My first year overseas has been by far the most stressful year of my entire life.

My words were harsher, and I felt like a bad person (more on this in next post).

I irrationally loathed all-things-Brazilian, and the mere sound of the Portuguese language would make my skin crawl at times.

I cried after a trip to get groceries, and I wanted to give up after an attempt (failed) to buy a transformer from the local hardware store.

I said some hurtful things to my teammates and blamed God for getting me into this nightmare in the first place.

It was not pretty. At all.

I’d heard about the stages of culture shock {honeymoon, crisis, recovery, adjustment}, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize the hurricane for the debris and the wind that’s nailing you in the face. And, when you are still struggling with some of the same issues months later, it’s hard not to think you must be the broken one.

But, I heard something this week that has been a bit of a lifeline for me. I heard about the research of Dr. Dean Ornish - a study which looked at stress-levels on individuals, and here’s the essence of what they found:

When stress levels reach above a 200 {on the Holmes-Rahe scale}, doctors will advise patients to make life changes– drink a glass of wine, exercise, sleep more, that kind of thing. The goal is to keep stress levels below 200, since anything over that can result in some incredibly negative effects, especially over the long term. In fact, 50% of the people scoring a 200 were hospitalized in the two years following the scoring with heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, or other severe illnesses. Apparently, the cumulative effect of stress on the body and mind can be an extremely damaging one.

Then, they used the same standards and scale to assess missionary stress levels. They found that the average missionary’s stress levels for the first year are typically around 800-900, and the sustained stress levels of a cross cultural worker stays around 600. {You can view the article for yourself HERE.}

Sheesh. 600. And 200 might get you a heart attack or cancer.

So, yes, maybe there is a shred of evidence for me to recover in my air-conditioned bedroom watching a movie at 2:30 simply because I braved the grocery center on a Sunday morning.

Maybe there is something behind the fact that I “accomplish” less and am tired more each day, something true about the reality that depression, anger and miscommunication are dangerously a hairline fracture away, all the time.

Perhaps there’s a good reason why we gain weight. And have shorter fuses. And often times resent the very culture and people we are trying to love. Maybe there’s a reason we burn-out faster.

Apparently, missionaries can be a stressed-out bunch.

And while I don’t offer many solutions, I will just say this to my fellow expats: You’re not crazy if you freak out after a simple trip to get bananas. You’re not an awful missionary if you can’t cross off anything from your to-do list because just surviving a day literally sucks every ounce of effort from your soul. You’re not broken if you sometimes {or even, oftentimes} hate this thing you’ve given up so much to pursue.

But just because you want to go home, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

Yet, make no mistake, long-term stress will produce fissures and cracks. And cracks, if left unattended, can end up shattering, spilling, and wrecking things.

And, yes, maybe God doesn’t give us “more than we can handle.” And, yes, our weakness provides opportunities for his strength and love to show up, but, still–  don’t be stupid. Or go all-superhero.

Get a massage. Take a vacation. Go eat at a Western restaurant, even if it is more expensive than the local food. Consider exercising a necessary to-do, and consider prayer an even more necessary one. Do whatever it takes to relieve some of the natural stress which comes from living in a different {and typically much more difficult} environment than the one you were born into.

Tightly-wound rubber bands typically end up snapping people, after all.