Monday, April 30, 2012

Running the Race

Yesterday, I completed my 2nd half-marathon.

I decided to sign up for it because I found out that if I don't have a race (or some kind of goal) on the horizon, I'm not motivated to run.

My time yesterday was the exact same time as the one I ran in December.  To the minute.  Weird.

However, this race was harder for me - for several reasons.

One reason is that I wasn't as diligent with my training.  For the first race, I was scared to death that if I skipped a day of training, I wouldn't be able to finish the race.  So I hardly skipped any days.

This time, I knew that I could do it, and I was a little more lax on the training.  Because of my lack of training, I was more tired during the race and my muscles and joints hurt more.  Not as much fun.

Another reason is that this race didn't have near as much support going on as the St. Jude Marathon did (which is what I ran in December).  Yesterday we didn't have crowds cheering us on, bands playing cool music, and lots of people running around us.  At times it seemed like we were running all alone ("we" being Kevin, our friend, Sergio, and me).  That made it harder.  We finished, but it wasn't as much fun.

I got to thinking about the race and how it compares to our Christian life.

How important is spiritual training?  Daily Bible reading, time in prayer and spiritual meditation.  How often do I fill up my "down time" with things that aren't necessarily bad, but aren't the best?  Do you ever find yourself in a spiritual "funk" and realize that you've been lax on your daily spiritual habits?  I know I do.  You will finish the race, but it will be harder if you don't spend that time training.  When will I ever learn this lesson once and for all???

Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. 
1 Timothy 4:8 (The Message) 

Also, how important is encouragement?  I know living in a foreign country and not having a lot of strong Christians around me to encourage me has been hard for me at times.  But, I got to thinking, how much do I take time out to encourage my fellow Christians here?  People who are very young in the faith and need encouragement as much or even more than I do.  I am going to make an effort to be more intentional about encouraging my brothers and sisters.  It makes the race easier and more fun!

So let's do it—full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.   
Hebrews 10:24-25 (The Message) 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Art Around Our House, Part 2

I love to create.  And I love it that our kids (some of them, at least) love to create as well.

Anderson has always been a great little artist.  He loved to sit and color when he was younger and now he loves to draw.

He, however, has his own ideas of what inspires him to draw.

One time it was drawing and coloring all of the logos for all of the soccer teams in Brazil.  He let me help him with that one.  Fun.

Lately, he is taking up advertising for Fanta.  Here in Brazil, we have Grape Fanta and Orange Fanta.  They also are having a contest for a new flavor - either maracuj√° (passion fruit) or strawberry.  Anderson loves to drink Fanta.

Here is his take on Fanta advertising....

I love that he invented the bearded guy (he isn't some guy on Fanta advertising here), and thought up different scenarios for him drinking Fanta.  The last one is a submarine (I think) and there are seats inside.  The bearded guy is sitting at a table getting ready to drink his orange Fanta saying "Alone".

Anderson is also very gracious to use his artwork to help me out with parenting problems.  One day, on a rare, rare occurance (HA), Garrett and Carys were fighting about cleaning up the kitchen.  Anderson was also supposed to be helping out.  His way of "helping" was to draw this:

Notice there are only two smiling workers in the second picture.  I know Garrett and Carys appreciated his non-helping, yet gentle, correction of their attitudes.

This picture remains on our fridge, and I must say that fighting during kitchen duties has lowered significantly.

Thanks, Anderson.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Art Around Our House (part 1)

Have I mentioned that I like wall collages??

I think I have.

1.  I have more small artsy things, than big ones.  To make an impact you have to put the small things together.
2.  I like lots of things - not just one or two things.  So, I get to use all the things I like.
3.  I like funky and interesting over traditional and predictable.

So here are some....
My cross collection:

In the dining room:
(I am going to probably change some of this soon and paint the wall.  I am thinking about yellow chevron stripes.  What do you think?)

Over the couch:

Carys's room (which you've already seen):
Tomorrow, part 2...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why you should take a mid-morning coffee break.....

I have been reading the book Seven Sacred Pauses:  Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr.

Just the thoughts in chapter 3 have been worth the price of the whole book for me.

Pause from your work at mid-morning, grab a cup of coffee and focus on these thoughts:
When I have the wisdom to step away from work momentarily, I am able to see it as a gift for the entire world.  A short, refreshing pause can enhance my growing awareness that all work has the potential of becoming love made visible - a blessing.....
I am God's temple on earth, a channel for loving service......
When you work, you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music - Kahlil Gibran
We long for constant renewal and strength so that as we continue our journey through the day, our love will be obvious in all we do.  Our work will then be a blessing for all humankind.  In some small way it will benefit the whole world.  It is a marvelous insight that our work is to benefit the larger world.....
No matter what your work entails - housework, laundry, personal contacts, business meetings, preparing for workshops, yardwork, writing, composing, teaching, cooking, raising children, (fill in your own labor of love) - realize that you are an artist.  In some small way you are continuing the work of creation. Remember to pause.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easters 2012

No, that's not a typo in the title.  Easter morning, Giovanni kept saying, "Thanks, mom, for the Easters." Which I thought was funny because it reminded me of Nacho.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.)

Anyway....   Easter.  I loved seeing the pictures on facebook of all my USA friends all decked out in their Easter best.  I love the tradition of new dresses and Easter egg hunts.

But, I don't live in the US.  Easter in Brazil is different, but still good.  First of all, obviously, it is in the fall instead of the spring.  So symbols like little chicks and spring flowers don't have anything to do with Easter at all.

Eggs, however, are big here.  Specifically chocolate eggs.  About a month before Easter, the stores fill up with displays of chocolate Easter eggs.  They are usually hung from the ceiling and come in every flavor and kind of chocolate imaginable.  Here is what it looks like in the grocery store:

Inside these packages is a giant chocolate egg, in whatever flavor of chocolate, with other candy inside.  If it is a kids' egg, instead of candy, it will have a toy inside.

For a couple of years, my kids didn't get a big egg from the Easter Bunny.  He brought other stuff.  Sometimes even American candy.  This kind of caused problems for the kids because when they went back to school after Easter, everyone told what kind of egg they got.  Brazilian kids usually get more than one big egg - one from parents, one or two from grandparents, one from god parents, etc.  So there is a lot of "egg bragging" going on and lots of toys from eggs to show off.  After we picked up on this, our kids started getting an egg from the Easter Bunny.  Even though they don't get tons of eggs, at least they can "fit in" when the egg talk starts.

So, here are some pictures from our Easter this year.

We woke up early to check out the chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had brought.
Checking out what the Easter Bunny had to say.... 
He got a spider man egg....
Sleepy big brother helped out with the egg hunt....
Lining up his eggs.  He's one of those kids who lines everything up...
 After our egg hunt at home, we read the crucifixion story with the kids.  Then we met some of our church family (the ones who weren't out of town) at a nice park where we read the scriptures about the resurrection and had some prayer and reflection time.  It was really special.

 The park had a goose pond, so the kids had fun feeding the geese.

This goose looked like he would eat your fingers off.  Giovanni wasn't scared at all.  Luckily, he didn't get eaten!
Some people wanted to go home and watch soccer or play soccer with friends.
 This day was GORGEOUS!    My pictures don't do it justice.  This park had these beautiful blue fluorescent butterflies that we tried to catch or get a picture of, but no luck.  They were everywhere and so pretty.

After our time at the park, several of us went to take some Easter treats to another family from our church whose son had eye surgery this week and was in the hospital until that day.  Just a perfect ending to our worship time together.

So, our Easter was different from what I grew up with, but still good.  We enjoyed God's creation and blessed and were blessed by each other.  Very thankful for my family, my church family and the beautiful place God has given us to live.