Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Thank You Lord"

Today I made a big pot of chili and had it on the stove to eat after church tonight. About 10 minutes before we left for the evening service I turned on the eye. I have a gas stove so I put the flame at a med-low setting while I filled a sippy cup and put a few snacks in my bag for Justice. My intention was to get the chili hot and turn it off as we were walking out the door. That was at 5:20 pm.

At 7:30 pm we were all loading back into the van for the drive home when Michael excitedly said to the kids, "Let's go home and eat some chili!" ---Immediately it hit me. Panic...dread..fear...I almost couldn't breath. Did we have the number of our neighbor? Could we call him and ask him if the house was still standing? Had our neighbor already tried to call us?

I told Michael what I had done and we drove as quickly as possible to get home. I cried the whole way. Fear....most of the house would be gone. I knew it. The flame was high enough to cause major damage. I though of the precious items in my kitchen that would be gone. I thought of my dog and cat and tried to remember if they were inside or out. I looked toward the direction of our house the entire way back. Looking for smoke, smelling the air. Listening for sirens. Trying to remember what "911" is in Portugal....Is it "211" or is it "411"...I couldn't remember. Michael assured me it was OK. I insisted it wasn't. I knew what I had done and I couldn't believe I went to church with the stove on. I was punishing myself already. I KNEW there would be trouble.

We arrive at the house and I saw no smoke. I ran immediately to the back door almost afraid to grab the knob...would it be hot? I looked through the windows for smoke. As best I could tell there wasn't any. I opened the door and ran through into the kitchen. I smelled nothing...only a faint smell of chili. I turned on the light and ran to the stove. There sitting on the stove was a beautiful pot of chili. The perfect temperature for us to sit down to dinner right then. The knob on my stove was still set to the medium/low setting, but the flame was not on. It had not boiled over and drowned out the flame, and there was still plenty of gas. The flame had just gone out. And from the temperature of the chili it had gone out shortly after we left for church.

Overwhelmed I cried even harder. How could that have happend?

God blew that flame out as we were leaving for church. You can't convince me otherwise.

How many other times in my ignorance has He protected me? Other times that I had no knowledge of? What about you?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Snapping Beans

Nanny, this is for you.

Trinity and Justice wanted to help snap beans yesterday. There were more ends and strings in the bowl than there were actual beans, but we sure had a fun time together. I later went back through and cleaned them up. It always takes more time to let the 'little ones" help out. I always find my ranch dressing in the pantry, or the peanut butter in the sink of dirty dishes. Usually where they try to help clean off the table. But one day, and one day soon enough, they will actually be a help. Right now....I can handle a few ends in my beans! These days with them will soon be gone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heroes Come In Small Packages - Guest Blogger

Charles Barkley’s not one, by his own admission. He’s not even in the running for a spot on the role model team. He’s not even worthy to sit on that bench. Would you elect a governor who told you not to let your kids look up to him?

Many former presidents, legislators, and judges fail the heroic litmus test miserably. The current crop of movie stars and media moguls have burned out like a match in the face of hurricane Ike. Yet, today we continue to knight people with the moniker of “hero” based solely on one qualification - their appearance on a plasma screen. All of this while true public servants (police officers, the military, ministers, teachers and the like) are rebuked and reviled by the faux Hollywood heroes.

In bygone eras it just wasn’t so. Those called heroes exuded courage, wisdom, and morality. They did what you prayed they would. They made decisions that you and I only have the fortitude to consider, and that, only at times.

Walter M. Schirra and I share common ground here. Schirra, the only astronaut to fly the space shuttles Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, once said this of heroes. He said that you don’t raise them. Instead, “ raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.” (As an aside, those of us with more common sense than fear of the sensitivity police know, with certainty, that when Schirra spoke of sons, he included daughters.)

Therefore, in the Schirra school of “hero-ology” the first prerequisite remains - parents must raise their children. We can no longer simply “play an active role” in the raising of our children. We’ve got to actually do the raising.

We can’t rely on the government, the village, the church, or the rectangular box of moving lights that we keep in our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and now in our SUV’s and minivans. Too many of my generation rose to adulthood with the extent of their home training being done by Cliff and Claire Huxtable of the Cosby family. Sadly enough, many times all the raising this generation gets comes from Hulk Hogan and Ozzy Osbourne, and it’s called reality TV. What a bizzaro world we live in today?!

Last week, in a foreign country, with a foreign language and culture, we took a very small step in raising our daughters, as daughters. We took them to school with only a cursory knowledge of what they are getting into. They understand only a small part of the language, and they verbalize even less.

Two years ago, when we started the journey to come to Portugal and start churches, they had no choice in the matter. When we took them to school and told them to behave and try hard and not to embarrass us - the only Americans this school has ever known; they started trying to do just that. They didn’t rebel, and they never mentioned a child’s favorite four letter word - fair.

They didn’t have a choice in coming, but they do have a choice in responding. You may wonder - what of their response? Well, suffice it to say, in my eyes, they just took a small step on the path to heroism.

Don’t subscribe to this particular path? Perhaps Oprah has a little more room on her couch.

~~~Written by Michael Andrzejewski for The LaGrange Daily News.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's Not The Same

In reference to my previous post, I was able to get a little video of the fireworks that are so loud. Remember, there is nothing to see really, only hear. There isn't a thing that's pretty about these things, only incredibly annoying. Make sure your volume is all the way'll make it a little more realistic. --(I even gave a little red neck hoot at the end of the video...I'm so embarrassed!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Parties & Pals

Wednesday I couldn't get through the street in our village because of all the men hanging lights down the road and on the catholic church. In Portugal roads are for people first and cars second. I had been warned about this weekend. My children were told that no one sleeps during the three day event. It's some sort of honoring of the patron saint of our village....what ever that means. The music started blaring out of the same speaker the church bells ring. If a songs playing and it's get the two for one special...bells and a song.

The church has a stage set up in the parking lot and right after they say all their prayers, over a loud speaker none the less, the rock bands gear up and last night didn't stop til 3:00 am. We try to run fans to drown out the sound, but when they shoot off those high powered fireworks that Michael says sound like a howitzer, there is no sleeping to be had. I wish I could catch one of those on video so you can see what I'm talking about. It's indescribably loud.

They take their parties seriously around here.

I'm in a video mood, so here is another one. (Videos take FOREVER to upload...I guess I'm bored....for the record it took me an hour to upload this'll be a while before I get this bored again. I can guarantee that!) I have no idea where my sons pants are in this video. This is how his relationship is with our family cat...sort of a love/hate one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Operation Vacation

Since three of my five children have been in school, I've been playing around with my sewing machine. I've taken a little time to rest before jumping into intensive language study and preschool with my two other children. This is what I ended up with.

It's made of quilt squares, an old blanket and a sheet. All of which were given to me from fellow missionary Kathy Hart in Mozambique. To be thrown together over the weekend, I thought it turned out fairly well.

This sweet thing is asleep in my bed right now.

And this pretty thing is sitting in one of my windows. I have no idea what it's called.

Monday, September 15, 2008

School Update

The kids are doing very well with school. Brooklyn is doing great in the third grade and it wouldn't surprise me if in a few months they don't go ahead and move her to the fourth grade. Faith has been moved already from the first grade to the second, however she remained in the same classroom with Liberty as her teacher has both grades in the same class. Everyday they come home telling me the new words they've learned....and I'll admit that I'm jealous....they will soon pass me by!

School starts at 9:00 and they come home for lunch at 12:00 returning at 1:30 and are done for the day at 5:30. Today we picked them up from school and had Major in the car with us and we went straight to the beach for a little fun. Here are a few pictures:

Seeing who's feet could disappear the fastest.

Forget expensive sand toys, just give him a stick!

Trinity got knocked down by a wave...I don't think she liked it, do you?

Look who finally became friends.

Tomorrow we will start back with our language classes. We've had the last two weeks off because our teacher went on vacation. It was a nice break, but it's certainly time to get back to work.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brooklyn Passed!

She is now in the third grade! Right after the test, she went to her class and they had reading time where each student read a paragraph from a story. Brooklyn said that she felt like she did good and understood what she read. A fellow classmate, and our neighborhood friend who is in Brooklyn's class met me when I went to get the girls for lunch. She said to me in Portuguese, "Brooklyn reads very well!" as if she were surprised. ----Maybe we should have shot for the 4th grade?!

Thank you for praying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First Day of School

Here are pictures of them heading out the door this cool, foggy morning.

Today was the first day of school and everything went well. During a parents meeting Tuesday night, (the night before school started...waited a little late didn't they?) we discovered they had Brooklyn, Faith and Liberty in the same grade. First grade. Faith and Liberty probably need to start in the first grade with the opportunity to work through first and second grade in the same year. Which is what we are trying to do. But Brooklyn absolutely will not go in the first grade. So we kept her out today as we made a trip back to the school later this morning with her language teacher who is a retired teacher of 33 years at the same school to discuss this matter with the school officials. I tell you what, messing with my kids is a sure enough way to see the wildcat in me. I take after my Grandma when it comes to this. My family knows what I'm talking about when I say that. My sweet girl, who is much taller than the average 9 yr. old here in Portugal, will not sit in a class with 6 and 7 yr olds. She'd barely fit in the chair!! Why would they do that to a child?!

Anyway, after a meeting with officials and the girls language teacher putting her neck on the line saying she would be responsible for her they agreed Brooklyn needed to be put in the third grade provided she could pass a test that she will take tomorrow morning. So those of you praying, please keep praying. Brooklyn was very nervous this morning as we sat in a very small, crowded meeting room with three Portuguese people talking very rapidly around her and about her. She was addressed directly from the school officials and she understood everything that was asked of her, but she was very shy in responding. She doesn't like all this attention.

Onto another thought before I get fired up again. After the parents meeting Tues. night we all went to the classes where our kids would be so that we could get specific instructions from the individual teachers. The first grade classroom didn't have a single thing on the wall. Not even the letters of the alphabet. The bookshelves were empty and there were three potted plants in various places. Nothing that indicated school started in the morning. Now this is a first for us, public education, but don't teachers in the States start decorating their classrooms weeks in advance? And get this, this morning when I dropped off Faith and Lib we arrived about 10 minutes before school started and we went straight to their room so I could introduce them to Professora Fatima. But the class was empty so we waited outside the school for her arrival. School starts at 9:00 and she showed up about 9:05. Unbelievable!! And she wasn't carrying anything in her hand but her purse! ----When will she decorate the room?----Can you tell this bothers me...maybe I need to volunteer? Be her "room mom". Do they still have those? I loved room moms when I was in school. They were the coolest moms who always brought cupcakes and threw the best classroom parties. That's what I want to be. "The Cool American Mom" who barely speaks Portuguese. Kids love it when I try to talk and mess up. They think I'm hilarious....wait a kids probably won't think it hilarious, huh. Embarrassing is a much better word. Maybe I need to rethink this.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stef's Leaving

This is a re-post from Oct. 2007 with an update

These are some of my most favorite people in the world. They are Ms. Sabrina Aalto, her daughter Stefanie, and her son Noah. They are members of Living Waters Baptist Church in LaGrange, GA where Michael used to pastor. They came to see us in Tennessee recently and we had a great time of fellowship and watching Noah and Justice play. They are precious, dear folks that we miss terribly. (We miss all those folks down there....)

To those of you reading this from Living Waters....we love you and miss you :( and we hope to see you around Christmas. If you come see me, I promise to put your picture on my blog too!

Stefanie was married a few weeks ago. It broke my heart that we couldn't be there for this important step in her life. She will be moving to Savannah where her new husband who is in the army will be stationed. I feel for the folks there in La Grange who will miss her and Noah terribly. I'm all the way across the Atlantic and I feel like she's leaving me too. Didn't she make a beautiful bride!?

Happy Birthday Justice

We just celebrated Justice's 2nd Birthday. He is so much fun and so very different from any of the girls. With the main difference being that he is a BOY! (duh) He likes all the boy things and we are all having a good time watching him grow up. He has that independent streak that I can only guess comes along with raising a young man. That kind of, "I can do this..I am capable" attitude. He doesn't like being told what to do but will obey if he has to. Sometimes he needs a little coercion, if you know what I mean.

Other news:

Michael has now preached five times in Portuguese! I am so very proud of him and of what he has accomplished these last 6 months in Portugal. He's working on translating a tract with all we are waiting on being some topic appropriate photos. Then hopefully it will be sent for printing.

Brooklyn, Faith and Liberty will be starting school tomorrow. Brooklyn says she is scared. Faith and Lib don't really act nervous, but I know they are a little. Brooklyn is old enough to care about what people think of her, so she's a little apprehensive. --They are getting so big and I'm not sure what I think about them going to school. Michael and I are attending a parents meeting at the school tonight. Hopefully we will understand most of whats said, (well, hopefully I will understand.)

Trinity was going to attend preschool which we were using as a free language class for her but we've been told there isn't enough room and there's a waiting list. So it looks like she will stay home with me and Justice. Which works for me. She and I will work on her learning to read in English, cause learning to read in Portuguese is just around the corner.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I Fell in Love with My Country - Guest Blogger

My wife recently created a post about Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska - the recently nominated Vice-Presidential Candidate for the Republican Party. In the post, she said that there were two things that she had in common with Gov. Palin. They both have five kids and married high school sweethearts. Although I disagree with Nina's humble assessment (they share many more qualities including strength, beauty, and commitment) the real reason for this post is to highlight some very poignant words expressed by Palin's running mate and Presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain. Over the last few months I have become increasingly impressed with Sen. McCain. I have told several friends and relatives that the more I discover about him, the more impressed and endeared to him I am. And while I would never consider myself worthy to be compared to him, like Nina and Gov. Palin, we share a few things in common. One I had forgotten about until this morning when I watched a portion of last night's speech online. The other I learned as a result of the same portion of speech.

What do Sen. McCain and I have in common? (Post your witty one-liners as comments, please, so we all can get a good belly laugh in) First, we both graduated from service academies with less than stellar marks and more demerits than either of us wanted. For those of you who don't know, I graduated from the USMA at West Point, NY as a regrettable member of the century club and Sen. McCain graduated from the USNA at Annapolis, MD in the bottom 1% of his class.

Second, we share a greater love for the United States of America that was born out of time spent in a foreign country. No, I'm not suffering, and no, I haven't been tortured and no, I'm not incarcerated because I am an American. However, the words McCain spoke last night reverberated in my soul in a slightly different manner. McCain specifically said, "I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's." Again, I'm no prisoner, but I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I serve Him unashamed (Rom. 1:16,17) and willing to follow wherever He leads, and as a result of His leading I have learned a greater love for my country - not because of McDonald's or Wal-Mart, but because of an American work ethic, ingenuity, freedom to assemble, bear arms, and vote in a representative republic. People here know America is great, but they have little idea of why that is and often harbor a great resentment toward the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love my country more for what made her great (a foundation of the Bible and men desiring freedom from tyranny) and knowing that there are some still fighting who want to keep her great.

You may not like John McCain or his ideals, but please respect his wisdom and service to the nation and understand his commitment to keep America great, rather than trying to lower her to the common socialistic denominator of much of the rest of the world.

In parting, the last little bit of Sen. McCain's speech for your consideration.

"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

I’m going to fight for my cause every day as your President. I’m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank Him: that I’m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth, and with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach. Fight with me. Fight with me.

Fight for what’s right for our country.

Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

Fight for our children’s future.

Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.

Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God Bless you. "

O Pregador

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Rocks!

She's tough! I wish folks could say that about me.

I'd like to think she and I have a lot in common. But in reality, the only similarities are that I have 5 children and so does she and we each married our high school sweethearts.

But I'll tell you this, if she compares herself to a pit bull with lipstick, then maybe she's the "change" everyone is looking for.

Sick 'um Gov. Palin!