Celli’s Adventures

Hi!

My name is Celli.
I am Voni’s cell phone: you know, the one she carries around in her purse or her pocket or her hand. Between her lap-top and me, we manage to keep her pretty busy.

But, last week, she turned the tables on me – and I didn’t particularly like it. Although it DID break up my normal routine and give me some adventuring.

It was like this.
On Thursday, Nov 7th, Voni and her son, Jonathan Hall, were doing their final packing before going to the airport to fly from Miami to Brasilia. I was needing to be charged up before the trip, so Voni put me on one of those flat circular chargers. When she put me on it, I sent her a message to remember and get me. She gave herself a mental note to jog her memory, put me on the charger and did the last work she had to do on her computer before closing it.

Jonathan called to her that he was getting the suitcases carried out and she’d better hurry. She quickly closed the computer, put it into its bag, turned around pulling it behind her. I yelled at her to remember me! But it did no good. Those two humans left me high and dry on the table beside the sofa, getting more charge than I needed.

I learned later that she realized I wasn’t with her, while on their way to the airport.
I guess she had a few minutes of panic, then remembered the verse “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are walking according to His purposes.”
She told herself that somehow this must be for the best…. And it turned out it was a special time for me!

Voni and Jonathan put their heads and the dates together and came up with the following plan.
– Michelle and Patrick and Mila left Miami -the next night, going to Rio de Janeiro to see Patrick’s grandmother – and they took me, Celli, with them!!!!

My first time in Rio de Janeira! Fortunately, they took me out of their bags and put me in a window out of their way – but where I could look out and see the sunshine and the varying blues of the ocean and sky. I loved it! I was also able to watch them with Mila, their baby daughter. Now, that was fun!

I stayed in that windowsill until Thursday, when Jonathan got there. I went with all of them (Jonathan, Michelle and Patrick) where they met Stephanie (another daughter) at the area where Hillsong was going to have a concert on Thursday night. Stephanie is working with Hill Song, so they all helped her – and I was with them. Now THAT was REALLY FUN!

Jonathan had me with him the whole time, so I got to hear a lot of the music and the praise of thousands! It was absolutely incredible!

Sometime after midnight, Jonathan and I got back to where he was staying. He fell into bed – and left me in his briefcase…so I didn’t see much.
Friday morning we went to the airport (I was still in his briefcase – not at all comfortable, I can tell you!)

All I could see was – nothing. But I could hear – we boarded, flew about two plus hours,
landed. I could hear Jonathan talking with many different people in meetings during the day. He was also debating about how and when he could get me to a friend’s apartment in Brasilia where he could leave me for Voni to pick me up on Monday afternoon


I’d hoped I would hear the Hillsong concert in Brasilia on Saturday night – but that wasn’t my luck. Jonathan left me with his friends on Saturday before he went to help Stephanie at the concert. There would be thousands there, including President Bolsonaro’s wife and several government leaders. This presented some interesting challenges for security, for the concert was out in the open… a HUGE stage and a wonderful concert… I heard that later from Voni.


The rest of my story is boring. I stayed quiet in the apartment until Voni and her friends picked me up on Monday afternoon. I must admit that I was GLAD to see Voni once again, even though she’d left me behind.
And she was glad to see me. She’s not left me out of her sight.

Life picked up again. I’ll be writing more. I just hope I can do it without her leaving me behind!.

I like this way of communicating.
I see now why Voni likes to write.
Until next time.

Celli

What Is My Life Style?

How often do we judge others’ actions by what God tells US to do? 

I have a lifestyle of 3 bedrooms in different places in the world, few possessions except clothes, computer and electronics, and a few hundred books on my Kindle library, some Bibles, two or three knick-knacks that I carry with me to give me a feeling of continuity in my life. 

As I deal with the weight of suitcases on the planes, I am attempting to constantly downsize (I don’t succeed well with that!) 

 
In Portland, Oregon, I have a rocking chair, in Georgia none of the furniture in my bedroom is mine, in Natal, Brazil, my “nest” there is my home… although I am there for only short periods of time and rent it out some. Now in November, the plans are for me to go to Brasilia and stay with some of my “kids” for a period of time. I have no idea right now for how long? 

I would not encourage anyone to have this kind of life. But this is where my loving Father has placed me. 
My joy? is writing and talking about Him- sharing the Good News of Him in our lives – what it really means. 

Sometimes I feel encouraged by the responses. At other times, I weep, for my lack of ability to share and be understood. 
At times I rejoice over what God is doing: my life is full of incredible stories and memories. 
Other times, loneliness camps on my doorstep, and the Lord has to comfort me. 

This is my life. I don’t regret it. I must lean on Him in trust and hang onto His hand. 
Don’t feel sorry for me… my life is rich and full. 

I don’t say this lifestyle is for you. I do say please, open your eyes to see what God is wanting you to do where you are. 

Who do you know who needs love and encouragement that comes from the Lord 
What small things can you do to bless others? It’s amazing how God takes those small things and turns them into wonderful things. 

You don’t have to live my lifestyle and have no permanent home. But our Lord DOES want you to reach out to those around you, with His love (not yours.) 

-voni 

I Didn’t Expect This…

I need to write it out so I’ll know what I’m thinking…

I want to go to bed, but first, write something to you all. I am learning that as I put my thoughts and emotions down on paper it helps me clarify things for myself.

Tonight, my emotions about my daughter, Lanae, and her future husband have surprised me.
They are in their 60’s and have recently discovered the wonder of love between them. They are both surprised by their happiness. Knowing some of the past heartaches in each individual life, I believe that those very heartaches have taught them the meaning of the word “happiness”, so they can experience it in new depths.
I rejoice – and pray for them, for God’s protection over them as they form an enlarged family circle.


But, I am working through some unexpected emotions on my part! This is a surprise to me. Completely unforeseen!

As I watch all that is happening, I remember how deliriously happy Joe and I were when we discovered we loved each other. Going into our 60’s we were both marked by grief. God moved in and turned our worlds upside down (literally.)

We had more than 26 years of a rich and challenging life together. But, now -tonight- my emotions are slapping me in the face with deep loneliness.
So, what do I do now?

Back to Psalms 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I SHALL NOT WANT.”

Once again I must turn to the Holy Spirit to fill my heart with peace and the knowledge that THIS is a promise from God.
If I trust Him, I shall not want.
I don’t always understand the how’s and why’s.
I only know I shall NOT want.


Joy may be intertwined with some tears: that only makes the joy richer.

We CAN trust God.
We CANNOT trust our emotions.
We CAN rejoice in the happiness of those we love.

-voni

The Day I Discovered Psalms 139 0r When I Almost Fell Off the Bus

Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil 
1980 

The packed bus unexpectedly swerved.  I am standing on the bottom step outside the open door: the last passenger to board.  The bodies of other passengers block me from getting into the bus.  As I hang on for dear life with a bag of books slung over one shoulder, I’m worried.  Maybe I shouldn’t be here?  As the bus lurched again, I know I shouldn’t be here!  But there’s no way to get off, unless I’m thrown off by accident? 
There is a shift in the packed bodies of the passengers, I am able to go up one step. 
Still not inside so the door can close… but closer to my goa of safetye. 

Why is this 48 year old woman crammed into this busload of passengers? of living bodies. 

Has anyone heard the word missionary?  Well, I’m a living (at least now) breathing example of one.  Only I don’t live in the Amazon jungle.  Rather I live in a simple house in a city of over 3 million people with a jungle of skyscrapers, and catching a bus to get me to the other side of this jungle so I can teach an English class to a student who is a businessman and needs to be more fluent in my native language.  
Why am I doing this?  Two reasons: we need to earn money for food and rent for our family AND my classes of conversational English always include learning more about the Brazilian culture and sharing things I’m learning from God.  
I love these classes – and evidently my students do also, for I teach business owners, medical leadersand some of the governmental elite. 
 
The bus lurches again, there is a shift of bodies (perhaps someone got off?) I manage to get one step higher, pulling my bag of books with me, and the door snaps shut – with me inside!  What a relief!  
 
This busload of “friendly Brazilians” isn’t so friendly as my bag of books gouges into bodies around me. People wonder why this obviously estrangeira  woman is even on this bus?  Eventually a man stands up and motions me to his seat. I sink onto the seat gratefully  putting the bag of books onto my lap so no one else feels those gouges. 
One I’m seated, those around me breathe a breath of relief, then forget me. I am happy to be forgotten! 
Almost an hour later, we arrive in the neighborhood where my student lives.  I clamber down the exit steps, relieved I can move again, then walk 
 
As usual, the maid opens the door for me with a smile.  We like each other. 
She tells me my student is running late (as usual) and asks that I sit down at the table and have some steaming hot ecafé com leite, fresh rolls, slices of ham and cheese, some fresh fruit from the street market. ( as I write this, my mouth waters. I love the traditional Brazilian breakfast!) 

As I sip my coffee (hot and strong), I pull my Bible out of that bag, and start to read Psalms 139.  I’ve read it many times – but todayknowing how close I came to falling off that bus, David’s words take on a new meaning. 

 
O Lord, you have examined my heart 
    and know everything about me. 
2 You know when I sit down or stand up. 
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 
3 You see me when I travel 
    and when I rest at home. 
    You know everything I do. 
4 You know what I am going to say 
    even before I say it, Lord. 
5 You go before me and follow me. 
    You place your hand of blessing on my head. 
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
    too great for me to understand! 
verses 1-6 

If I ride the wings of the morning, 
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 
10 even there your hand will guide me, 
    and your strength will support me. 
verses 9-10 

I savor the words as I read them. Truly, God was with me this morning!M 
 
My student enters the room. 
“Bom dia, Da Voni”. 
“Bom dia Sr Eduardo  

He sits down at the table, as the maid serves him. 
“Shall we begin?” 
He reaches for his coffee as I reach for my Bible. 
 
I know what the conversation will be about this morning. 

I wonder what things have happened to him that were “close calls” 
That’s the first expression I’m going to teach him today. 
And how much will he understand of David’s words? 
Today, this English conversation class is going to challenge us both. 

The Challenge I Faced- FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN 1968

It is surprising how quickly it gets dark in Belo Horizonte. Brazil.  Not surprising for those who’ve lived there for years. But a big surprise for this 36 year old woman, newly from the USA. It is only 8 pm (that is 20 hours – the way we count time in Brazil.) It is black as midnight, no long twilight here.

My husband just told me he will have to come home later with a friend who lives close to us in the suburbs (We live in a somewhat isolated neighborhood about 12 kilometers (8 miles) from where we are visiting on the other side of the city of 2.5 million inhabitants.

My obvious question is: “So, how will the kids and I get home?”
He reaches, pulls out his car keys and drops them into my hand, then turns to answer a question.   Problem solved in his book.

My mind’s book starts flashing red warning signs
“You don’t know how to drive the Kombi that well: can your feet reach the pedals?
You’ve never driven home after dark across this city- not even in daylight!
You do NOT know the streets that well, and most of them are not marked with their names.
You have five kids you have to drive home.
How could my husband do this to me>?”

My feet dragging, I cheerfully called our children: (at least I hoped it was cheerful.)
I was almost petrified with fear.
We all got into the 3 seated Volkswagen Kombi.  My eldest son sits beside me to help me see where we are; my two daughters in the second seat stationed by the windows on each side, our two youngest (3and 5) in the last seat, me hoping they were tired enough to fall asleep. 

I turn the key, and thank God.
The Kombi sputters then then settles into a loud purr, and we are on our way


First challenge-getting to and going through – the CENTER of the city: a large plaza where 8 main streets cross.
We get there! I shift to a slower gear, with my three eldest directing me, we work our way within the traffic pattern and turn right onto a main avenue leaving the plaza.  Thanking God

Now we follow a large two-lane avenue, heading several miles out to our suburb. Challenges: few street lights, BRIGHT headlights, drivers insisting there is one more lane when there isn’t.

How far before we have to turn off this busy street onto a side street that runs alongside the avenue, where we then angle off to the right. ?  (If that sounds complicated, it’s because it was!) We know there won’t be streetlights, only our headlights to pick out the path through the cobbled streets and darkened buildings, before we turn off onto the dirt and sand street where our house is located about three blocks up a slight hill.

We all keep our eyes strained to find that side street. Suddenly, my eldest yells:
“Hey, Mom!  The side street is coming up.  We need to change lanes, or we’ll miss it.”
Praying like mad, I gear down to get behind some cars, then onto that all-important side street.
We make it!  The car would have been full of high fives… but we didn’t know about those in 1968. 


Shifting down one more gear, we creep through the darkened streets; I jump when a cat suddenly runs across the cobblestones in front of us.
We turn onto our dirt and sand street, trying to keep out of the ruts.
It is dark!  NO STREET LIGHTS. One doesn’t realize what a difference they make.

We pull up in front of our gated garage.  My oldest son jumps out of the car to unlock the gate, I gingerly drive the Kombi into the garage, turn off the key and, with a sigh of relief, slump down for a moment.
Then, gathering all of our things we climb the steps, unlock the front door, and lights start flashing on in all the rooms. 
We are home – and safely!  Thank You, God!

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

Did you feel the tension I was under?
The fear of the unknown. Could I do this?
Does this remind you of something you’ve gone through?
What can we learn when we have to deal with fear?

Voni’

What are subjects you would like me to write about?

I highly value your comments.

Discomfort > Change ?

Is it discomfort? 
I have always called it an unease…knowing something is going to change without knowing what nor when. I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened to me. Sometimes the change is small, at other times it is a BIG change: at times joyous, other times with tears. But always with the quiet knowing that God is doing something new.

He is doing it again.

When I came back to Portland mid-February, I expected to be here one month, back to Georgia with Lanae, then to Brazil after Easter.
I’m still in Portland. God has not allowed me to leave (although I tried – several times.) I gave up.

Now- I have that unease which means change. I don’t know what it is, nor when it will come, but God is moving things behind life’s stage for our family, scattered though we may be.

So, I wait and pray… desiring to use this time here well
When you pray for us, please pray for wisdom, guidance, and protection. Your prayers make a DIFFERENCE in our lives.

And Father, may we not be afraid of change. May we remember that YOU are holding our hands.
Voni

HOW TO BE CONTENT & KNOW WHERE I BELONG.

July 1, 2019 Portland, Oregon
Monday eve – almost 9 pm – and still light outside.
I need to get up and close and lock the doors, turn on some lights, get a snack to munch on as I attempt to put down on paper some of my thoughts. . .
Today, all day, I’ve been asking the Lord; “Where do I belong?”
Until now, I don’t have an answer. Which is why I am asking God this question.
You see, I know one thing: “ I don’t belong here. “

I am not referring to this one particular place: Portland, Oregon, or sitting here in my daughter’s home. I’ve been in Portland many times and lived here for different periods of time.
I didn’t have this restlessness rattling around inside of me. I was at peace, for this is where I was supposed to be.
So – why am I now asking this question? Is there something I’m supposed to be doing and am not doing it? If so, why don’t I know what it is?

Sometimes I laugh at myself. I’m sure that at times people look at me and shake their heads… they are nice about it, but they wonder what is wrong with me? Why can’t I be content and happy here, where I am?
How can I explain?

I’ve learned to be content and happy in over 60 different places in this world.


Paul put it like this in his writings:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. ..” Philippians 4:12
And Paul had plenty of situations!

Brasilia – DF (Brazil)
Belo Horizonte – MG (Brazil)
Natal – RN (Brazil)

A highly respected and bright pupil, taught by the leading rabbis in Jerusalem.
After Jesus was crucified, a living Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus,. Paul, who was seeking Christians to throw them in jail and more . . . spent the rest of his life sharing about the importance of Jesus, and others throwing him in prison, stoning him, him, maligning him.

Here, Paul said he had learned how to be content in the midst of any and ALL situations?
So, what is it with me? Can’t I do the same?

Is the answer yes, I can?
Do I want to be content in all circumstances? Yes, I do!
So, what do I do to once again learn how to be content?
Paul gives me three no-nonsense, practical and inclusive answers.

1

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
“6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, at the same time, thanking him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

2

Ephesians 5: 15-21
“ 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3

1 Thessalonians 5:13b-22
Be patient with everyone.
15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
16 Always be joyful.
17 Never stop praying.
18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
19Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.

This is my list of basic instructions. I have no excuse for not being content, even though I don’t have answers
I’d better get to work, studying these guidelines once again – and applying them in my life.
When I obey Him, He takes care of my emotions.
Thank You, Father! I am where you want me. I trust You, knowing You are putting things in their proper place – including me.
-Voni

GOD’S CHOIR

During World War 2, when London was being destroyed by the blitz bombings from Germany, William Temple, who served as Archbishop of Canterbury wrote the following about worship:

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. “

It is a beautiful day. One of those days where it feels good to be alive – in reality, I’m feeling better than I have in many months – and maybe years?  The air is deliciously warm and fresh, with a slight breeze moving the flowers.  I am surprised by the pleasant scents

I look around me and realize I am part of a huge crowd of people.  It must be thousands?

But there are no crying babies, and fussing children.  In fact, the children I see scattered are all contentedly sitting on the grass, playing quietly with each other.  I smile as I look at them. The word “contented” emanates from the scene, even from me.

All the loose ends in my mind no longer create knots of hidden restlessness along with my sense of inadequacy. I am at peace!

I again look up at the soft blues in the sky with its depths of color I’m unaccustomed to see, and they tug at me.

As I look around at this scene, I am amazed.  We are on a sloping plane of freshly cut grass. The thousands of people I see are in a natural amphitheater. Some activity is going on up on the stage (it is HUGE!)

Someone from the front of the crowd starts a snatch of a song. The melody is caught up by those close by, and it spreads throughout that mass of people!  I have goosebumps and tears run down my cheeks.  The melody weaves a tapestry of sound: I can hear all of the parts being sung by this immense crowd of people, the instruments on the stage blend in with the voices.  I’ve sung in choirs and played in orchestras – but I’ve never heard anything like this! In fact, there are instruments I’ve never seen.

I remember the first time I sang an unknown melody led by the Holy Spirit, sitting with a small group of friends on the floor.  It was unbelievably beautiful as our voices blended in praise to God.  But now?  Thousands and thousands of voices weaving in and out.  No disharmony.  We are all singing praises to our God and Lord, and the Holy Spirit is directing all of us!

Oh Lord!  I never imagined that I would be part of this rush of beauty and joy as I sing to my Lord.  And He is here!  His presence penetrates our souls, spirits and bodies.

I have no words, Lord, to express my overbearing gratitude. 

I am here, with my loved ones and YOU. 

I am here!

– Voni

ONE YEAR AGO

I WROTE THIS EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO – EVEN TO THE SAME HOUR. BUT I WILL HAVE TO CHANGE THE ENDING. 

June 8, 2018 at 6:51 PM ·  
My apartment in Natal, Brazil, is 592 sq feet. 
Definitely a NEST. 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, SMALL kitchen, living area, small balocony. no laundry facilities. 
Many Americans would NOT like some of the challenges of living there. 

 
No hot water except in the showers. No dishwasher. (Yes, we wash our dishes in COLD water.. . and we get them clean! :)  

We do have Wi-Fi. Unexpected contrasts 

Simple and small – and HOME!  

 
I can put up my hammock (barely) on the balcony, see the ocean, feel the breeze, keep my windows and doors open, so the breeze from the ocean swishes through the balcony door, rushing through the living area and out the open front door. 
It also comes swirling into the bedrooms, but since there aren’t any large open areas on the other side of the apartment, it meanders through the two bedrooms and hall, to join it’s rowdy cousin blowing through the living area. 

This is HOME.  

 
I have no idea why I have this emotional attachment. Perhaps it is because this is the last home that Joe and I had in Brazil, and there are mementos scattered on glass shelves put on different walls. (When the floor area is small, it’s amazing how creative one becomes! :) ) 

I know ONLY that I need to go home for a period of time. I don’t know what are all the purposes the Lord has for me and my Nest in Natal? Perhaps it is so I can have closure to one phase of my life before I enter the next one? 
Only by going there, will I be able to know. 

At the moment, I am in Portland, OR with my daughter, Sheryl, and her husband. Hopefully I will go back to Valdosta, GA, to be with another daughter in August. 
 

THIS IS WHERE IT CHANGED… MY PLANS TO RETURN TO BRAZIL ARE STILL ON HOLD. 

June 8 2019 6:49 pm 

I AM NOW LIKE A SMALL CHILD, HANGING ONTO MY FATHER’S HAND. HE IS TAKING ME ON SOME DETOURS I HAD NOT EXPECTED. 

There have been tears, laughter, struggles with myself, missing Joe, learning to trust God more. When I start to become discouraged, I remember Jesus’ words: 

Matthew 18:2-4 The Passion Translation (TPT) 
“2 Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, 3 “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. 4 Whoever continually humbles himself to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm” 

The time WILL come when I will think and talk to God as I sit on that tiny balcony, look at His creation around me, feel the sun on my shoulders and the breeze on my face and understand more of what God is doing. 

But now, I have to keep walking as a small child.