Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving and Birthdays

Thanksgiving 2015

As you boys may know, today is Aunt Michele's 50th birthday.  Yes, I really am that old!  Half a century!  Growing up sometimes my birthday would fall right on Thanksgiving day since it's a holiday that is on a certain day of the week and a certain week of the month.  Do you know how that works and what U.S. president set it up that way?  Check it out and see if you can find out!

I remember often getting a chocolate pie for my birthday and not a chocolate cake.  But it was always A-OK for me since I love pies!  Pumpkin is one of my favorites.  This morning I was glad for three extra pieces of pie leftover from our Thanksgiving feast - and yes, I ate one for breakfast with whipped cream.  I also remember that the birthday money I got almost always went to buy Christmas presents for my brother and for my parents.  Your daddy's birthday money had always run out long before the holidays, so half of mine usually got lended out to said brother to buy gifts as well.  I'm still wondering if I ever got paid back for all those loans?

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family.  Being a missionary kid often means that you are never with your whole family on holidays.  I guess we have never been with you all on Thanksgiving.  Your mama can correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't remember one.  But being a MK also means that you can call many special people "aunt" and "uncle."  Yesterday Greyson was surrounded by people that love and care for him - his mama and his papa and two sets of missionary aunts and uncles.

I cherish the time that we got to spend at your house in Texas last year and the time we had together in August of this year.  We didn't have any turkey in North Carolina or Georgia in August but we did have some grand times of thanksgiving.  I am very grateful for memories of this past summer.

Today I am wishing each one of you an incredible holiday season as we get closer and closer to Christmas.  Be thankful for what you have and don't forget to be grateful for good times together with your family while "the getting's good!"

By the way, yesterday we ate turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, baked creamed corn, yeast rolls, two kinds of fresh salad, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, whipped cream, and washed it all down with sweet tea and cool sparkling water.  Most of all that was from ingredients bought right here in Brazil - but not all!  :)

Love you,
Aunt Michele

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Recently I attended a regional ladies' meeting for all of our area churches here in the valley.  In the afternoon attendees could choose between several workshops.  I chose based on which location would be the coolest and figured that the class held in the main auditorium would be the best!  Interestingly enough it was about women's mental health.

The speaker related the many signs of severe depression and anxiety.  As she went over her lists, I could have easily put a check mark on each and every item as I've experienced them all over the past two years.  At one point she mentioned that if you have had any or some of the symptoms for more than six months, you need professional help.  I started calculating in my little head the time frame of my "symptoms:" forgetfulness, insomnia, heart palpitations, acts of random rashness, anger, despair...

I finally decided on 515 consecutive days.  How many days is six months?  180?

Today I am thankful that I am still here!  Still on the field, still married to my man, still healthy, still kicking and getting set to celebrate my 50th birthday on this Friday.  I made it through a dark valley of my life - not always with total grace and style - but with prayer and with daily gratitude for small blessings in the midst of terrible anxiety and pain.  Today I can praise God for helping my family as we faced some large obstacles and trudged our way through to the other side.

On this Thanksgiving 2015 I am thankful for:

my praying friends near and far

my husband

my three sons

my mother and father

my extended family

my Savior and God

Friday, November 20, 2015

Always Listen to Your Mama

This week I was thinking about the last time I went into a little interior place called Madeira Cortada {Cut Wood} in the Brazilian state of Ceará.  I found an old post I made on my big blog about one of my trips.  Maybe Aaron would like to read the whole letter.  Today I'm just going to tell you about one part of the trip that I was remembering this week.  Here's the link to the complete version below:

Interior Trips 

William finds girlfriends wherever he goes!


Once when the boys were all very small and we still lived in Fortaleza, I was invited during the big, end-of-the-year holidays to go to the interior farm of one of our church members.  It seemed like a fun idea and something good for the boys. Greyson was just a baby.  William was about seven or eight and Dalton would have been about six.   

To get there we went with other ladies and children on a big Sprinter van that ran once a week to the particular little village.  I was told the trip would take about two to three hours and I had been to the place before by car and knew that to be true.  But when it comes to traveling in Brazil, always listen to your mother and add about two times the estimated amount.  We left Fortaleza around 9:30 am and got to the house where we would stay around 6:30 pm.  How many hours is that?  ____ That's exactly right!

The next morning as the boys got up at the call of the "galo," I decided it was good to establish some basic rules.  All the little boys that we saw had slingshots around the necks. William and Dalton had brought theirs.  I said, You better remember - Don't kill something you don't want to eat!  And I told them they should let someone know before they ran off somewhere.  And to remember to be careful if they saw a snake.

Off they went into the wild...

One day while the adults were all sitting on the porch one afternoon, a man on a horse came by and said he had just seen two little white boys walking out in the bush.  He was concerned and had heard the missionary's family was staying at a certain farm and came by to let someone know.  He said that he asked if they were lost or needed help, but they wouldn't even open their mouths to say a word.  He figured that neither one spoke any Portuguese.

I smiled and laughed! They were just obeying Mama's rules!  In the big city where we live whenever we would go out and about I would remind them to not speak to strangers.  I wondered if that was why they did not speak to the man.  Sure enough, when they came back later on the man of the house asked the boys why they didn't speak to his friend.  William said, Well, we didn't know him and we can't speak to strangers!  The old farmer laughed and laughed.  He sat them both down and told them that while they were on the farm they could speak to everyone because everyone was a friend of his and thus theirs, too.  And we all had a good laugh.  I was also a happy mother knowing that even in the middle of the interior scrublands my boys had been obedient.

Moral of the story:  
Always obey your Mama - 
no matter where you may wander!

Friday, November 13, 2015



I found this old poem on a card in my box of teacher stuff recently.  Thought you all might enjoy it. 


My dad gave me one dollar bill

'Cause I'm his smartest son,

And I swapped it for two shiny quarters

'Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters

And traded them to Lou

For three dimes -- I guess he don't know 

That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates

And just 'cause he can't see

 He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,

And four is more than three!


And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs

Down at the seed-feed store,

And the fool gave me five pennies for them,

And five is more than four!


And then I went and showed my dad,

And he got red in the cheeks

And closed his eyes and shook his head --

Too proud of me to speak!


Shel Silverstein  

Where the Sidewalk Ends

 Harper Collins, 1974


Lost and Found

Your Aunt Michele first visited Brazil in 1985.  Uncle Byron and I had been dating for a year or so when he announced that he would be traveling to Brazil that summer to see his sister graduate from the school for missionary kids.  He asked if I would like to go along.  Somehow he convinced me that it would be a great trip.  I could meet his family and see Brazil.  He was also sizing me up to see if all my talk about wanting to be a missionary would hold up under the pressures of actually going to a mission field.  So off we went with strict orders from Grandma Beckner to NOT get married on a Brazilian beach somewhere.

We drove to Miami to catch our plan to Fortaleza.  It saved us a lot of money, and money was in short supply.  We made the trip in a little yellow Honda Civic with no air conditioning.  On the way down we stopped in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia where we spent the night with friends of the Atha family, Owen and Grace Riley.

In Miami we were to leave the little Honda at a certain church and the pastor was to take us to the airport.  We had a really hard time finding the church, we got really lost.  But eventually we did locate the place, got something to eat, took baths after a long, hot car ride, and got dropped off at the airport.

When we arrived in Fortaleza, I remember thinking this was one crazy city as on the way to the Fortaleza Academy the taxi had to stop once for a donkey in the street and another time for a big cow.  But there we were and everything seemed so incredible.

As soon as we got out of the taxi, a student come running across a big soccer field towards us.  Byron thought, Oh, Boy!  Some old friend.  But the fellow started calling my name and ran up to hug me.  It was Walter Gordon!  My home church, Chamblissburg Baptist, supported Walter's family and we knew each other.  His family had just been in the States for furlough, too, so it hadn't that long since we had seen each other.  It made me feel very welcome and not so lost in the strange, new place.

One of the things that Byron arranged for us to do while in the area was to meet up with a missionary pilot to fly to an interior town in a small plane.  We were to go to a certain airstrip outside of Fortaleza where he would meet us.  All the plans were made and off we went on a big bus.  Byron told the bus driver where we wanted to get off and the driver said he would let us know when.  After an hour or so, he called us to come and get off.  To me, it seemed like the middle of nowhere.  It was at a crossroads.  The bus driver explained that we needed to walk a little bit on the road to the left and we would find the airstrip.

Ok, there we were in the middle of nowhere walking down a quiet road looking for an air field.  We walked and walked.  Finally we saw some other people and Uncle Byron asked if they knew where it was.  They pointed towards a dirt road off the "main" one we were on.  More walking.  But finally we saw a runway.  There was a caretaker in a small house near the runway who came out and talked to us.  He invited us to come and sit on the porch while we waited for our little airplane.  He seemed a little surprised and mentioned to Byron that he hadn't seen the missionary in a long time but that yes, sometimes he did land there.

And so we waited... and waited... and waited.  The set hour came and went and Uncle Byron wondered what we ought to do.  I suggested maybe we should call someone.  But this was way before cell phones and few Brazilians could afford a phone in their houses at that time.  And so we waited some more.  In the mean time I started feeling really sick.  The lady of the house made me some orange peel tea and gave me some crackers to eat.  And I found out what their bathroom looked like.  It was clean and had a toilet but no way to flush as there was no water tank.  To flush there was a big bucket of water that each one had to pour into the pot.  It worked and I got quite good at the process as we were there for many hours.

Finally the man asked if there was someone we would like to call.  Byron said that was a good idea and asked where he could go to use a phone.  The man said, Well, come on in!  And took him in the house and showed him their phone.  Seems their daughter worked for the phone company and had gotten them a phone for a gift.

To make my long story short, we were at the wrong airstrip and by then it was too late in the day for the missionary to come to where we were.  So the dear little couple walked we us back to the big road while we waited for another bus to take us back to Fortaleza.

Moral of the story:  Ask about a phone before you sit for many hours on someone's porch in the middle of nowhere. Ah, and don't underestimate the wisdom of a dumb American girlfriend.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Faraway Family

visit to nephews' home in 2014
I'm not a real great "faraway" aunt.  I can't remember all my nephews' birthdays [there are only three].  I have to look up their address every time I need it.  But, hey!  I know what their dog's name is and what the tree looks like in the side yard because of a wild, crazy, not well planned trip from NC to Texas on a stateside furlough in 2014.  It was only a few days, but was precious and memory making.

Seems that's the life of a faraway missionary aunt.  And now I'm a faraway missionary mama with two of our boys in the US of A and only one here in Brazil with us.

Yes, I worry.  I see the weather report for North Carolina and wonder if they are safe and warm.  I hear about accidents on Highway 14 and hope they are no where nearby.  But I try not to obsess with my worrying - just casual curiosity.

 I'm happy for quick chats on Facebook and occasional Skype calls.  It's a new phase of my missionary life.

silly moment with a nephew in August 2015

Things I do to keep in touch:

Friday blog posts for my nephews with a true, in real life story about my family at Aunt Michele's Stories

Work hard to remember those birthdays with a real paper card

Message my big boys with newsy info every Friday and little quips throughout the week

Keep my Skype light on all the time I'm online

Pray every day for my big boys and regularly for the three little nephews who aren't so little anymore

Crazy Experience

And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you,  he shall by no ...