12.31.2012

Some Reflections...

I'm sitting here at my table in our apartment, praising God for a fast internet connection, earl grey vanilla tea, and safe travels home to Canada.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a difficult time reflecting on a whole year.  My memories don't go much further than the past 3 months, for being in Brazil was a huge part of 2012 for this Rivers fam.  If I were to look at pictures I know I'd remember birthday celebrations, weddings, traveling to BC, canoeing on the Grand, teaching ESL, going to graduations. 

Right now it all feels so serious and weighty.  We're on the cusp of the new year, Jake and I have returned home, and everyone has thoughts, ideas, and resolutions for how to make 2013 the best year ever.

I, for one, have a few resolutions of my own to make.  But I was reminded in church yesterday that if they're not made with dependency in God, and if, rather than life changing, they're merely words uttered in the wind, I might as well not make them.

Being in Brazil was absolutely life changing for us.  It put so many things into perspective, and I don't want to lose sight of that.  So here are a few of my reflections on 2012 and advice for a new year:

1. Don't move if you don't need to
Living in a one room apartment that was half the size of my Canadian living room really helped me to see that we don't need more space.  Before we left for Brazil, Jake and I had been contemplating moving into a two-bedroom apartment on our return.  My goodness, when I walked into our one-bedroom apartment after arriving in Cambridge last night, I was blown away at the sheer grandness of it.  Jake just keeps calling it lavish, which is truly a word I would use.  We were led to the realization that we don't need more space than this.
One room!

Another view

2. Spend more time building and investing in relationships
One thing we missed while being away was not having the space to have people over.  "Have a seat on the bed, or that tiny space in the corner" is not really something a guest ever wants to hear.  We are so elated to begin hosting again, and I was even inspired to start keeping a guestbook, not only to remember who we fellowship with, but to challenge ourselves in not letting too much time pass between guests.  We came to appreciate our Canadian friends and family even more, while making new and equally special Brazilian friendships.

3. Get rid of the 'stuff'
Some people erroneously lump Brazil into the category of other central or south american countries that might be considered more 'third world'.  I have had some people come up to me and say, "Has it been hard being back?" and before I have a chance to answer, "Yes, the snow has been so cold and horrible!" they continue with, "It's so tough to see people here with so much, and to remember how happy those poor people are with nothing!" First of all, can I have my input now? Thanks.  Secondly, yes, there is huge disparity between the poor and the rich in this lavish country.  Brazilians like to look good, though, especially when it comes to clothing and beauty.  Brazilian homes, on the other hand, are generally very simple.  Sure, I missed my nice, sharp Pampered Chef knives.  But do I really need two loaf pans, or that massive bread maker that I've only used three times?  Jake and I have a plan to go through everything-including those piles of paper which are the bane of my existence-and re-evaluate the necessity.

4. Love recklessly like Nina
I often wish that we could have spent a longer time in Brazil, something like 6 months.  Being there for only 3 months, I sometimes couldn't see the benefit in making deep relationships.  I am generally a very open person, and it was strange to feel myself guarding my heart.  Eventually God broke through my wall, and in the last month we were there I was able to give more of myself to the friendships we were making (which was sad, because we had to leave!).  There was one little pup, however, who broke through to me right away.  The little mutt we looked after, Nina, was just so loveable.  I couldn't help but lavish affection on her, and she with me.  She didn't know when we were leaving, nor did she know why she wanted to spend time playing and walking with us, but she loved us anyways.  Animals are like this, no?  She taught me about what it means to love without trying to protect myself.

5. Love your enemies like Jesus
Jesus gave me an even greater piece about love, in particular about loving my enemies.     I generally approach difficult relationships two-fold:  

a. I don't want to work at them
b. I want to work at them in my own strength

I was struggling with this while in Brazil, and it got to me, fraying my ends.  I was doubting my character and maturity in Christ.  
One morning, Jake and I were doing a devotional on loving one another (our brothers and sisters in Christ), and God spoke to me.  He taught me that I can't love people on my own.  I am, by nature, a selfish person.  On my own, I don't even want to love people in general, so how can I expect to learn how to love my enemies without depending on Christ, who is the lover of my soul?  Christ is the standard in loving His enemies- He has it down!  I need to depend on God and ask Him to give me the love that I lack for my enemies.
I was thankful for this insight and tangible advice in such a difficult area.  

::

Jake and I have been thinking about these things for a couple of months, and I hope they will stay with me for a long time.  They seem like such simple things, don't they? 

And yet, sometimes it's the simple things that make the most impact in the course of life.

Let me tell you, we learned so much more in Brazil, and both Jake and I are looking forward to sharing stories, thoughts feelings about the three months we spent there.  I am also looking forward to many more blogs to come regarding our last couple of weeks there, our goodbyes, and our travels back home.  

Our trip to Union Station in Chicago, with snow behind us and brave smiles on our faces.  I was grateful for the winter coat the TEAM staff provided for me! 
For now, I want to wish everyone wonderful New Year's Eve celebrations with whomever you will be with.  Jake and I will be spending it with his immediate fam, since it's also his mom's birthday!

May God bless you with relfections/advice for your new year, for 2013.

Love,
Ashleigh

12.21.2012

Enjoy Your Flight...

I was watching some birds soaring in the air today, and mused aloud, Do you think they enjoy flying?  It's hard to imagine being able to fly and not taking enjoyment in it.

I have been thinking about our flight to Chicago next Thursday.  I still remember the first time I flew in an airplane, the rush as we gained speed and made our ascent, the tears of happiness that slid down my face as I watched the airport become smaller and smaller.

Whenever people ask me what superpower I would love to have, I always say flying.  I mean, the thrill of cliff-jumping is enough to make you wish you could just spread out your wings and glide over the lake.

I have to admit, I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

But, I digress.  I wanted to apologize for the lack of blogging lately.  It's been harder than I ever thought to share a laptop with Jake.

He's been writing a lot lately, eager to get his book off the ground.  I'm very happy to see him so inspired!  Sometimes it feels like I'm just waiting for him to finish so I can use the internet, or spend time with him, or whatever it is that needs to be done.

Then, when I'm internet-ing, I feel like he's in the exact same position as I.  Back home in Canada, Jake has a desktop.  I find that it's much easier to say, ok, let's both go online for an hour, then we'll go for a walk.  

Whatever was life like before the internet?  If I don't have a good book to read, I can only think of looking on pinterest for inspiration!

Well, let me tell you, inspiration comes in many forms.  I was inspired to share about a Christmas cantata Jake and I attended on Sunday night.  And this was the backdrop:


A garden is a far cry from North America's snowy, Christmas tree-laden, hot chocolate, mitten-using pageants and dramas.

The premise of the cantata was to share the real meaning for Christmas, and the main character was a grasshopper, and a chorus of children dressed as various common Brazilian garden insects accompanied him in his search for the real Christmas.  It was cute, and not at all what I had been expecting!

It just goes to show you that it's not only culture that influences our dramas and re-telling of Christmas, but also the weather and season changes.

This week-end Jake and I are going to a popular tourist spot with some friends of ours.  Caldas Novas is a city with natural hot springs, and there are many water-parks and places to see.  We're looking forward to this last bit of excitement before we start packing for our journey home.

Love,
Ashleigh

12.13.2012

A Word About Journalling...


I wonder what would happen if I started journalling at night before bed, instead of writing about thoughts and events from the previous day in the morning? 

I love writing.  I love waking up early and coming out in the morning light to spend time with God.  I generally remember enough of my thoughts and feelings from the day before.  I often feel like I have no patience to journal at night.  Running a hot bubble bath and settling in with a good book is more my speed in the evening.

So why not keep journalling in the morning? 

How about you? When is your favourite time to journal?

Love,
Ashleigh

12.11.2012

Tell Me a Story...

I don't know how ya'll [give me a break, we work with American missionaries!] feel when people post more than one blog per day.  Personally, I love reading blogs.

I have Google Reader, meaning that I subscribe to as many blogs as I want which then appear in one feed, allowing me to read them all in one place rather than skipping over to multiple websites every day.  Jake and I both follow blogs, and lately it seems that hardly anyone is writing [including myself!].

I guess the closer we get to various holidays, the less time people have to sit down and blog.  In my case, there just hasn't been anything interesting to write about, or so it seems.

I've been looking through some of my pictures, and realized that there are stories in each and every one of them.  I'll let the pictures inspire me to do a little bit of writing.  Some of these pictures have been on Facebook, so you may have seen them already.


This is Nicky, the Evans' boxer.  He's a BIG boy!  Just now I got scared because his head popped from below the table where I'm writing, his brown, globe-like eyes imploring me to scratch him behind the ears.  He is a big snuggler, and tells you in no subtle terms that he wants love.  One time I was stretching on the porch, and he decided that would be a good time to plop right down on top of my legs and get some attention.  Let me tell you, he's not light!  He and Nina had to get used to each other when the Evans returned from the States [some friends were taking care of Nicky], and they still have some work to do.  Nina considers Jake and I to be her humans, so she takes it very personally, not to mention indignantly, when Nicky decides he needs to be pet.  She barks all around him, and gets herself right in there, making sure our hands are nowhere near his head.  We've got a long way to go yet.



Our friends Marilane and Rodrigo took us to Goiania a couple of weekends ago.  It's the capital of Goias, as well as the city to where we flew in.  Goiania is only 45 minutes away, but it is much more commercialized than Anapolis, with big sky-scrapers and many little restaurants, called barzinhos.  Jake took this picture at one of the massive malls, where our friends bought us some espresso and hot chocolate to pass the time before we headed out to a fish buffet.  Sound appetizing?  Well, I had been looking forward to it as soon as they mentioned that was where we would be eating.  Waiters brought around platters of seafood, all kinds, including shark and shrimp.  I was disappointed that most of the fish was battered, but that saved Jake's life [since he's still learning how to enjoy fish!].  I enjoyed the melted battered cheese balls [think New Year's appetizers-mozza sticks], and salmon, including the rice salmon pilaf.  We enjoyed our time with Marilane and Rodrigo, and were grateful to be able to get to know them a little better.


Now this, this is my happy compromise.  When I want something sweet, but not completely devoid of nutrition, I get this, a bowl full of fruit covered in chocolate.  It's like a fondue, but better.  This bowl was drenched in chocolate, and contained three amazing fruits: strawberries, bananas, and grapes [although the grapes they use here are the big ones that contain seeds--crunchy when you want soft and squishy]. 

Sandals are acceptable here, even the thong-type [flip-flops in the vernacular] sandals that you wear to the beach.  I've seen shoes of all types being worn.  And yet, I'm learning that there are rules.  You can't wear flip-flops to church, but you can wear sky-high stilettos.  I've learned that, for women, the acceptable and most common type of shoe used in the evening when going to class or shopping is the closed-toe flat shoe, like the shoes in the picture [those are mine, by the way!].  Shoes are a big deal, and for someone who doesn't enjoy shoe shopping, it feels like an even bigger ordeal.    I've been intimated to buy some ever since we arrived, but I passed by a shop window yesterday and noticed how cheap they were [think Payless affordable] and had a blast trying them on.  I've never felt so excited to buy shoes before, and I think it may have been becayse I was on a mission.  I was in the shop for a total of 45 minutes [I decided on these in an impressive 15 minutes, and then chatted with the store clerk for the rest of the time].  Needless to say, I'm happy with my purchase, and can't wait to wear them to class tonight!

Anyone who knows Jake knows that he is a human magnet for all things animal and small.  I don't know if you can see well in the picture, but he coaxed a lizard on to his hand [it's in between the third and fourth finger].  That's the first time he's got to hold one since being here, but I can assure you that it hasn't been for lack of trying!  We were walking in the seminary last night and ran into a pregnant cat.  In no time, Jake had her purring around his ankles, and the cute little thing followed us home.  I was worried about the dogs getting her, but their barks were enough to keep her outside of our yard.

*Confession Time*

I like cats.

I know, I know, there are plenty of haters out there.  I was once a hater, too.  Not to mention that I get some sort of allergic reaction when I am within the vicinity of those furry felines. But you know what changed my mind for me?

These precious little ones
And they didn't give me too bad of an allergic reaction, either.  I'm really looking forward to the idea of getting a cat when we get home.  If you've seen our apartment, you'd understand why it's not a good idea to get a dog.  There's really no space for a larger animal to run around, so a cuddly, talkative, mellow cat would be the perfect addition!

Those are all the stories I have for now.  It's another rainy afternoon here, and I think I shall make myself some tea.

Enjoy your afternoon!

Love,
Ashleigh

Perfect Wake-Up Smoothie...

I've been getting into papayas while being here.  They taste so perfect, succulent, and are great in smoothies.  I think even Jake is learning to like the taste.
Try this delicious smoothie for a great pick-me-up!

Ingredients

2 Bananas
2 cups of milk
1/4 papaya fruit
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 cup frozen mango
1 TBSP chia seeds
Honey, to taste

Post work-out, like they were made for each other...

Mix everything in a blender, pour into a glass, and enjoy!

12.07.2012

A Place of Descanso...

You know that big long word that English profs love to use, onomatopoiea? (I probably didn't even spell it correctly!)  Dictionary.com describes it as "the formation of a word by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent."   For example, buzz. It sounds like, well, buzzing, when you say it.
There's one Portuguese word that I've enjoyed hearing and speaking, on occasion.
Descanso.
It means rest, and, I mean, the way it rolls off the lips gives you the impression that you just gave your tongue a day at the spa.
You can feel the tranquility emmanating from the depths of this long, unused notion.
Rest.
It's hard for some of us to rest.  I woke up this morning with laundry on the brain, and while I was rushing back and forth between the washing machine and my Bible, Jake was sitting exactly how this photo depicts, at our new-to-us picnic table, resting, the perfect picture of morning's first light bathed in peaceful rays of sunshine.
Exactly how I wished I could have been resting in God's Word: without worrying about getting that first load on the line.
Let's descanse, for a little while, and remember to thank Jesus for those precious moments of peace.

Love,
Ashleigh

12.02.2012

Power Goes Out...

I stepped into the shower, turned on the water, and waited.

And waited and waited and waited.

Finally, I had to accept the fact that the power was out, since the water never warmed up.  Sure enough, the light was off in the fridge, too.

We were kind of in a rush for church, having decided during snooze button fest that sleep was more important.

So I decided to whip up my breakfast in the blender.

Which was out of commission due to the powe...yeah, yeah, I get it.

I grabbed a banana that wasn't covered in milk and chia seeds, and we headed off in the light rain to church.  Our pastor picked us up on the way, and that's when we realized that it wasn't just our place that had lost power.  It was a big section of town, noticeably defined by the policia militar that were directing traffic in place of the lights.

The church had no electricity either, and, since Jake uses the laptop for his lesson notes, he had to teach half by memory and half by the scattered notes he'd uploaded to his phone a couple days ago.

I think we've both learned our lesson about, well, lesson notes.  Personally, I enjoy having a hard copy in front of me, but found that it can be difficult to print it out if it's not actually on the USB stick you've brought to the printer 5 minutes before you have to catch your bus.

Technology being the beauty that it is, I think we'll both be uploading a back-up lesson to our phones from now on.

And I've also gained insight into why iPads and Tablets are so desirable...

Love,
Ashleigh

11.30.2012

What Does She Do...

We have some pretty great students.  Our Thursday crew has transformed into one family consisting of a mom and her two little girls. The rest of the class seems to have given up, but this little family creates as much energy as a class of 25.  Unfortunately next week will be the last week with them, due to graduations and Christmas.

Delia works as a music teacher/pianist, and both of her daughters are in ballet. The oldest one wants to join a ballet company when she gets older; she showed some of her routines to us last night.

We taught them about jobs and professions, and they learned how to ask, "What does she do?  Where does she work?"

To practice further we played charades...if you look at the picture, can you guess?

She's a dentist!

My goodness, they're quite dramatic and you can imagine all the laughter that ensued.

Sometimes it's the simple things that are the best to learn.  I'm amazed at how quickly even little Eloisa was learning words.

Despite the surprises and changes that have been part of our time here, one thing hasn't changed:

It's a blessing to impart knowledge to others.

Love,
Ashleigh


11.29.2012

Catalao...

So I realized that lately I've been doing more photo blogging than writing.  Not like this is a terrible tragedy, but for me it's actually a sign of blogging laziness.  I intend to do better, my blog friends.     

Dave and Miriam's church plant
 Jake and I came back from Catalao with full hearts.  It was such a wonderful time to visit Dave and Miriam and their daughter, and to see some of the rural parts of Brazil.  

It took us three and a half hours to get there from Anapolis, so we stopped for a bite to eat on the way.  By the time we got there, it was midnight, so we basically said goodnight and went to bed. 
Exploring the downtown
The next day, Miriam made us waffles for breakfast, and then Dave drove us around Catalao.  First we went to see the church plant that they started about five years ago.  The mother church is in the picture to the left, right behind the yellow-ish pagoda.  Catalao only has about 150,000 people, and there is a huge need for church and evangelism there.  A lot of the youth get involved in drugs, and so there are many young people in the church who look up to Dave as a father figure.
It's so bright!!
 Dave took us downtown, and we enjoyed the small town feel compared to the sprawling city of Anapolis.  We saw various schools, universities, activity centres, and some of the tourist attractions like this gorgeous Catholic church set on top of a hill overlooking the entire city.  (You can see the view here.)


One of my favourite parts of spending time with the Kanagy's was seeing their trampoline ministry with the neighbourhood kids.  So far, there are about 55 children that come out every week, and many of them are unchurched.

Trampoline ministry?  you ask.  Yes, check it out for yourself! I asked Dave how he came up with the idea, and he said it just came to him one day.  They have a lovely trampoline in their yard (yes, I was to be seen testing it out for about 10-15 minutes on Saturday evening), and the kids can see it when they look through the fence.  

Dave and Miriam let the kids jump on it, but there is one stipulation(for those who don't go to church): they must memorize a Bible verse before they can jump.  They each have their own sheet, with about 10 verses on it, and once they have memorized it, they must sign their name.  They can build up credits by memorizing two verses, but no more than that.  Dave said that some kids even give away their credits to others sometimes so that those who aren't so quick at memorizing can jump right away.  Here is an example of how it works:


These boys had never been here before, but had only heard of it from friends.  Dave has the children memorize verses starting out with understanding that they are sinners, then working on down to how to receive salvation from Jesus Christ.  The young guy without the shirt on took a look at this verse, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." ~Romans 3:23, and said, "What! That can't be true! We aren't all sinners!" and Dave had a chance to tell him that yes, indeed, we are all sinners, because that's what God says in His Word.  

What an amazing ministry to children!  Some of these kids have no idea what truth is, and yet here they are, memorizing God's Word just so that they can jump on a trampoline for an hour.  I was absolutely blown away.


They were super excited to jump, and I was just excited that they are receiving truth! 

There was a comedy night at the church plant that evening, so we got a little taste of Brazilian humour. 
The pastor and the worship leader pretending to be Brazilian 'rednecks'
There was a 1/2 hour long sketch of Brazilian 'redneck' humour, but there were also a few videos that didn't include talking (including a Mr. Bean sketch) and thankfully the humour rises above cultural differences! 

The lake is just starting to fill up again due to the rainy season
After Sunday School on Sunday morning, we went to a lake that was close by.  Since it's dry season, the lake is a lot lower than normal, but the water was the perfect temperature!  We thought it was going to pour at any moment (hence the clouds), but it just got hotter and hotter.  We both got sunburned on our backs, but we didn't notice it at the time because floating in the warm, refreshing water felt so delicious.





Dave and Miriam took us to a place that overlooks the lake, and it's also  got the replica of Jesus the Redeemer statue like in Rio de Janeiro.
Overlooking Lake Azul

Jake with Dave and Miriam Kanagy






We were just so overwhelmed by Dave and Miriam's hospitality.  They fed us well, and treated us like family.  I probably talked a little bit too much to Miriam (maybe due to the fact that her counselling and psychology training makes her an excellent listener?! Let's go with that!)  It was a great opportunity to see just another facet of ministry that believers are doing here.

Love,
Ashleigh

11.24.2012

Last Full Class...

 Well, Bible classes have come to an end at the seminary, and so did ours last Tuesday.  Our class of three has dwindled down to two now, and as long as those two would like to keep learning, we'll keep teaching up until the week of Christmas.  The school year goes from mid-February to mid-December in Brazil, so this time of year there are a lot of graduations and celebrations, aside from Christmas!

From L to R: Natalicio (a professor), Elide, and Herli)
We really enjoyed this group, and I'm so upset that I forgot to take a picture of them with us (seems to be a theme here...), but happy that I captured this one at the end of class.  We had decided the week before to have a little celebration with food to say our goodbyes to Elide.

Our snack, complete with cafezinho and mandioca cake
(in the clear plastic tub)

We only had one student show up at our Thursday night class again, so we had to cancel it.  That has been so discouraging, but we're starting to learn how to be flexible in those situations.

This weekend we're visiting Dave and Miriam, our ministry team leaders, in their city of Catalao; it's been exciting to see a different part of the country, as this city is completely surrounded by farmland.  We're going to visit the church plant they've been helping with for the past 5 years.  Their commitment was about 5 years, so by next June they'll be finished here and will start wherever else God wants them to be.  
Just a teaser...

Love,
Ashleigh

11.22.2012

Raining Again!...

Today I found coconut oil, after thinking stores didn't carry it, and I decided that $20 for 300 mL is not worth it...

Then I made a grilled cheese and pear sandwich.  Delicious. 


You should really try it...no regrets!

Love,
Ashleigh

11.20.2012

Chicken Little...

Jake and I went to the evening service at the Baptist church that we teach at on Wednesday evenings.  Every church worships differently, and this one is a praying church.  Before the service started, we were told to join hands with one another in little circles and pray.  We had a chance to see some of our students there in a different context, where we are the students (of Portuguese, that is!) and they are the teachers.

There is a man who attends our intermediate class with his two daughters, and Jake and I have gotten to know them really well.  It turns out that the Lopes' family have three birthdays within 6 weeks, and mine happened in there somewhere as well, so we've been able to celebrate all these birthdays with them.

They invited us to come back to their place after church for 'shrimp'.  That was all we knew.  I like shrimp, it was 9:30pm, we thought, hey, it'll be some light appetizers.  This sounds like fun.

When we arrived at their house, we had to wait for the pastor and his wife to get there, then we started with some fancy cheeses, salami, and wine. (Wine! you say.  Yes, it's acceptable for most Christians in Brazil to drink wine, but not beer or other alcoholic beverages.)

By this time it was 10:30, but I noticed big plates and forks sitting on a side table.  Next thing I know, there is rice, and salad, and a shrimp sauce, and chicken, and we're eating all this delicious food so late at night!  It was delectable, my friends.  I can't begin to tell you how amazing it was.  The chicken was cooked to perfection, and seemed to melt in my mouth with all the creaminess.  The shrimp was placed in a cooked pumpkin, and so when you scooped it onto your rice, a little bit of pumpkin would come with it.  My, how I should have taken a picture, but I was so enamoured by the fantasy of it all.

Ice cream was the dessert that followed, and then more talking and sharing and getting to know this family a little bit better.  This is probably the sixth or seventh time we've shared a meal with them, and each time I feel even more blessed and humbled by their generosity and grace in our lives.

Valeria (wife and mom) wanted my pumpkin pie recipe, and although I have yet to pass it along to her, she gave me the recipe for the amazing chicken dish that so enthralled me.  We still have leftovers in the fridge which both Jake and I are ecstatic to eat for lunch today!

Chicken a la Valeria
Ingredients:
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of cream
1 cup of some sort of melty cheese 
[Softer than cream cheese]
(Here they use Requeijao, which could be a type of Cheese Whiz...
I'll have to perfect it in Canada, or you let me know what you find)
Flour or onion soup mix
1 TBSP mustard (optional)
1-2 lbs chicken breast

Directions:
1. Filet the chicken breasts so that they're in smaller pieces
2. Dip them into the flour or onion soup mix (This helps to thicken the sauce) 
and lay them in a glass pyrex dish 
3. Mix together coconut milk, cream, cheese, and mustard if you choose,
then pour over top of chicken
4. Bake at 350F for 40-50 min (I'm a little dicey on this part-
just keep an eye on the chicken.  You could cover the top in foil 
for the first part, then take it off for the last 10 minutes or so)

The picture doesn't do it justice!
Voila, you have delicious and tender chicken!
Bon Appetit!

Love,
Ashleigh

11.19.2012

The Time of the Bride...

Well hi there, stranger! I've gone a few days without writing, but that doesn't mean for a second that we haven't been having any adventures.

While back in Canada, our very good friends, Charlie and Cindy, told us that one of Cindy's nephews was getting married in Anapolis during the very time we would be there.  Since they couldn't go, David (her nephew) said we could stand in for them.  

Then, we met a family at the Presbyterian church who mentioned that their cousin was marrying a Canadian in a couple of weeks.  The wheels in my head started turning.  Is it by any chance David and Mellissa? I asked.  The answer was, of course, yes! and how did we know them and were we going and now we have a ride and know someone at the wedding.  Coincidence? I think not!  God is so good.

It seemed like November 16th was such a long ways off, but it came and went last Friday.  David and Mellissa are married, Jake and I are impressed, and all is well.  

Most weddings in Brazil take place at night.  Like I said before, one of the mantras of missionaries around here is "night culture".  It's said whenever something doesn't seem to make sense, or a wedding starts an hour and a half after it's supposed to, or people have dinner at 10:30pm...say it with me: 

Night culture.

Ok.  Now that we have that established, the wedding was to begin at 8pm.  Jake and I got a ride with the family, so we arrived there at 7:30pm.  Our friend Igor took these pics, and I couldn't choose which one I liked the best!




We were sitting in our chairs, watching people arrive for an hour and a half. Yes, the wedding started at 9pm.  

Before the ceremony began, there was a small little ensemble playing some lovely orchestral and pop culture pieces to welcome people as the came in.  There was also a live recording of the entire ceremony projected onto the wall. It was nice because family members who weren't able to come could watch, and once David and Mellissa got up to the front, their backs were turned to us the whole time, so we could see their faces.  If you watch the video, you'll understand what I mean.
This is what greeted us as we came in, this delightful table of sweets and assorted pictures of David and Mellissa.

There was an orchestra, a live orchestra.  Apparently they play at all sorts of weddings, and Mellissa is one of the singers.  Let's hope they cut her a deal?!

The aisle...My goodness but it was gorgeous!
David came and stood up at the front by himself for the longest time.  First, he had to wait for both sets of parents to come up, then all of the bridesmaids, flower girls, and various others, then he had to wait for about 30-or-so close relatives to walk up the aisle.  

That's a lot of waiting!  It was worth the wait, though.  The orchestra played incredibly well (they even played a song from Pirates of the Caribbean for the parents' entrance!) 
All the close relatives sitting up near the front
 Here comes the bride, finally!

video

 Her dress was fantastic, wasn't it? 

One of the first parts of the ceremony was the placing of the rings, then they read their vows, which were long, and more like intimate letters to one another.  They've known each other since they were very little, and they've both been through a lot, but God brought them together!  After that came the little message (did I mention her Dad married them?)

There was a lot of special music (sung by members of the orchestral party), and signing of the register (by the grandmothers).  Then when they kissed, sparklers shot up to the ceiling! A very memorable moment.  What impressed me the most, was that there was a little video for the guests to watch while the bride and groom stood up at the front and got pictures with the various family members.  It was a great use of time, extremely efficient.  
The happy couple!


I just had to get a picture of that train!
After the wedding, there was no reception, not even salgados (appetizers), but there was a long line up to shake hands with the bride and groom, and their parents.  

While waiting in the line, we took pics of these gorgeous flowers (Jane, Jake knew you'd want to know what they looked like, so this was his idea :)
I would have liked to get a picture with them, but, like I said, it was a LONG line-up, and I didn't think it would be fair to make everyone behind us keep waiting.  

Afterwards, we got to go out for pizza with our new friends from the church, and it was 11pm, and we got home around 12:30am, in the rain, and had to slip through that little space between the bars in the seminary gate, and tried not to make noise so as not to get the dogs barking and wake up our neighbours.

All in all, it was such a cool opportunity to experience a Brazilian Christian wedding.  We're very happy for David and Mellissa, and may God bless them in their new union!

Love,
Ashleigh






11.14.2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Well, if you think we're getting blessed with all the sunshine down here, think again!  We might still be able to wear shorts and tank tops, but it's been raining cats and dogs most days.  The birds woke me up with their racket.  I'm watching green parrots chase each other and use their beaks to climb up the branches-at least they seem to enjoy these dull days.  Let's hope the toucan doesn't swoop down upon this bird paradise.
...
Then again, it's starting to sound worse than a pet shop out here.
...


I've been thinking about a lot of things lately, including our future in ministry, writing a book, starting a family...you know, the usual.  Life often resembles this alleyway, where you can only see a few steps ahead of you, and the rest is a mystery.  

Thankfully, the future is not a mystery to our God.  We need to learn to depend on Him, and trust that He will lead us in His path. 

I posted this verse to Facebook yesterday, but I want to share it again here, because it is so beautiful and completely encapsulates the need for our dependence on God:

If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. ~isaiah 58:10-11

Praise God for His encouraging words in our lives, even on rainy days such as these.

Love,
Ashleigh

Brazilian Baby Shower...

When Ben and Becky were still here, I had the opportunity to go to a baby shower.  Becky informed me that-for any party whether it be for a birthday, baby shower, or wedding-when the cake is brought out, it's time to go home (or, at least you know it's acceptable to do so at that point).

Well, I went home a bit before the snacks and cake, but I got to see quite a bit of what goes on.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so you'll have to use your imagination.  On that day we were celebrating three babies, not yet born.  One of the women was going in for a C-section the next day, so everyone was excited for her.

They started with a really neat presentation of gifts.  You may have seen this done in Canada (I saw it at a wedding, once), but first you start with an empty bag.  Then the presenter starts giving gifts, preceding that with a nice phrase to go along with it.  For example, one of the gifts at the shower was body lotion, so the woman said something about keeping the mother feeling and smelling pretty even though she will be tired.  It was a really neat idea, and pretty soon their bags were full, and everyone got to see what the gifts were and why they were important.

After this, the games director gave the mothers a small, non-exerting writing game to keep themselves busy while the rest of us ended up playing some pretty exhausting ones!  They included:

  • The laundry hamper game: A team of two people had to work together to get a load of baby clothes on and off of the clothes line before the other team.  My team won, you know why? Because my mama taught me how to hang them clothes right! 
  • Find the shoe game: We all had to take off our shoes and put them on one end of the room.  Then, the games director went and mixed them all up while we had our backs turned.  The first one to find her shoes and put them on won
  • Put the clothes on the baby: There were two plastic baby dolls, and the first team to undress and dress her won
  • Pin the diaper on the baby: We spun the unsuspecting blindfolded victim around and then, using only our voices, had to lead her to the bulletin board to pin on the diaper.  Wow, this one got out of hand! Women were yelling, screaming, getting so frustrated when the player wasn't listening.  I left after that!
From my point of view, showers are pretty similar to those in Canada, except for all the balloons.  I don't know what it is about Brazilians and their balloons, but they LOVE to use them for all their parties and decorations.

Love,
Ashleigh

11.13.2012

New Neighbours...

I may have mentioned that our originally intended ministry supervisors arrived home to Brazil yesterday afternoon.  Tim and Tammy have two teenaged children and a little Dachsund, so we're back to a full house around here again.

They've been busy unpacking and reorganizing their home, and we've been busy planning lessons and job hunting (for when we come back to Canada), so we haven't seen too much of them.

Jake and I were talking about it earlier, and, as he said, it's a fine balance between who is guest and who is host right now.  Technically this is their home and property, so they are the hosts.  However, they haven't been in Brazil for 16 months, and we've been living here for a few weeks, so does that make us the host?!  It's all very confusing.  I think tomorrow we'll go over with some pao de queijo  and break the ice a little bit more.

Love,
Ashleigh

11.11.2012

Pirenopolis...

Jake and I went to Pirenopolis, which is only about 45 minutes away, to stay at a pousada (a Brazilian Style Bed and Breakfast) for our 2nd anniversary.  I'll let the pictures tell the story:

The bus ride only cost about $3.00, and we staked out the very back ;)

Our room

Delicious acai, topped with banana, granola, and condensed milk

The famous Catholic church of Pirenopolis

Thankfully it stopped raining just long enough on Friday for us to enjoy a swim!
<3

Excited to eat our pizza!

Just a sample of what the streets looked like...this section is very touristy

Francesca, the pousada proprietor 


one last look at it...

11.08.2012

Take It In Stride...

We showed up tonight, braved the rain, prepared the lesson, and no one showed up.  The doors were locked, the lights were off, the church was empty. I was looking forward to this class (Thursday classes are my favourite-they're small in numbers, but the group is really fun!)

So we did this, instead:
Doing what we do best with Bill and Kathy Bacheller, and Ward Rau, a gentleman from their church in Chicago who is here for two weeks
I had made some peanut butter chocolate squares for our class, but since we didn't get to eat it there, we ate it at the restaurant.  I gave some to the waitresses, and they liked it so much, they asked for the recipe! (Thanks, Ashley!)  I never imagined that baked goods could be such a viable ministry-for me, anyways.  There are many talented and renowned cooks back home in Canada who use this gift for baking and cooking in opportune ways, and I admire that.

Jake and I got to visit Ministerio OASIS again yesterday, the counselling part of MAEB, and Kathy Bacheller showed us her house that is in the process of being built.

Kathy and the new director's house

Bathroom space- this has been Ward's project during his time here
We enjoyed being out there, and I was able to chat with the secretary, Karine, and hear more of her story, how God has worked in her life and brought her here.

Karine and I, a few weeks ago- I think I've gotten a bit darker, don't you?
Jake and I decided to take some pics too...


Being in Brazil has really taught us how to take things in stride.  If you show up somewhere and no one is there, or they're late, you don't worry about it.  I've actually felt less stress because of this, for, if I'm a little bit late, I know that my Brazilian counterpart won't mind that much.

Love,
Ashleigh