Category Archives: Different Drums, New Melodies

world view, culture, different ideas

More Mirrors: Concepts for Survival and Sanity


Prelude: August 1967  in Belo Horizonte, MG  Brazil

We are hunting for a house to rent – there is nothing unusual about that.

However, we have a few unknowns this time.

We do not know the language well.

We do not know this city.

We do not know the culture.

And we we do not have the luxury of sufficient funds to stay in the hotel long enough to get a better understanding.

Although we’ve studied about the country, the history. we are now strangers in a strange land.

The decisions we make now will influence our future, for whatever it will be.

We pray for wisdom.


It is afternoon and hot.

My husband and I are tired, thirsty and a little discouraged

We have looked at house after house. The amount we’ve set aside in our budget for housing isn’t going to stretch as far as we’d hoped.

The Realtor turns the car off the busy avenue, and we head up a rough road that turns into a sandy, dirt rutted road and stop in front of a house we immediately like.

We are about 30 plus minutes by bus from the center of town.

We look around us: this block is entirely open.  Two houses on the next street. On the corner is a corner grocery store – but nothing like I’ve seen before.

Around the house are empty lots full of dusty weeds with some cans and bottles scattered.

Not too pleasant to look at, but then we looked at the house.  White Stucco, a gated postage-sized lawn leading to the front door, a large gated garage. A three-level home inside, never lived in. Three bedroom, two baths, a large back yard with a pool area. WONDERFUL!!!  We are ecstatic:  we have found our new home! A place with space for our five children – and the 200 or more favorite books we brought.  Where we can have friends in, be hospitable, and maybe be able to fill the pool in the back yard! (The Realtor warns us that we are on a well, and it may take 24 hours to fill the pool. He was wrong: the most water we ever got in it was about one foot in the deepest part; just right for our two smallest children to use as a giant wading pool.)


We didn’t know it, but the mirrors were giving us a false picture. 


In Brazil, when one moves into a home where there were no previous tenants, one is accepting the challenges of faulty wiring, plumbing that does not work, learning where the insects come in and how to block them, and how much of an electrical load before the fuse box shuts down.  That is only the beginning.

The only phone is in a neighbor’s home, one block away.  The local butcher is a block further out on the dirt road: the beef carcasses hang in the open air with flies swarming over them. (Cooking the meat should kill all of the germs.) If I want hamburger, the butcher cuts off a piece of beef and puts it through the grinder, then wraps it in pages from a newspaper.  No neat refrigerated packaging here. (In fact, in the city of 2 1/2 million there is only one small SUPER MERCADO in the center of the city. When I saw it, it reminded me of small markets when I was a child in the states.)

We live 30 minutes from the center of the city. Close by US standards.  By Brazilian standards, it is the remote middle of nowhere.

In 1967, Brazil is in the aftermath of a passive rebellion which stopped a Communist take-over.  We are living in a country ruled by a military junta It isn’t uncommon to have mob control by tear gas in the city.  (Our eldest son was caught in one.)


We are starting on a new walk with a high learning curve which will last for years. I look at this country as my new home, where I will live until I die. So, I’d better start learning!

New Living Translation  this verse becomes an undergirding in my life.

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.  Matthew 19:29

Now, it is November 2016.

In the US, in Brazil – in fact, in the whole world – all is changing TOO rapidly.  Each one of us has more to learn, and perhaps, more to LET GO OF.

We face decisions as to what are the true priorities in our lives.

This requires our ability to see beyond the mirrors surrounding us that are projecting false images, to discover what is real, solid, unchanging – what some call TRUTH.

I pray for clarity of mind for each one of us.

The Shifting Kaleidoscope: Concepts for survival and sanity

August 1967  São Paulo, SP  Brasil

It is night and everyone is tired!
Our bus brakes screech to a stop and we all pull our bodies and our children from the bus as a pile of suitcases grows on the sidewalk.  Our host families walk around us, searching for the specific family they will take home.  Our Hall family comes together: two adults and five children, ages from 15 to 2 1/2
It is only a little after 6 pm (I will soon learn to say 18 hours) and it is midnight dark.  How can that be?
I ask one of our hosts. Somehow I hadn’t assimilated the fact of São Paulo not having long twilights like I was accustomed to in the states.

In the next few days, besides the classes we take for a week to introduce us into the Brazilian culture, I am bombarded with new realities.
“Do NOT drink out of the tap. Get your water for drinking ONLY from the big water filter in the kitchen.”
(The water from the tap is loaded with bacteria, etc., that can make you very ill . In the coming months, we will all discover this truth from first-hand experience.)

“Do NOT put toilet paper in the toilet.  Throw it into the basket with a lid beside the toilet. Reason for this: the plumbing cannot handle the toilet paper.  (The baskets are emptied daily into the trash. )
When one forgets this rule, an overflowing toilet can be an embarrassing result.  One more item one learns from personal experience.

NO HOT WATER in the kitchen nor from any of the faucets throughout the house!  The only hot water is in the showers: from an electrical unit in the shower head itself. (What keeps me from getting electrocuted???)
HOW can one wash dishes without hot water?  ahhh, that is an art I learned quickly…

ALL FOODS, if not peeled nor cooked, HAVE TO BE TREATED IN WATER IN LARGE BASINS WHERE THEY ARE SOAKED FOR 15-30 MINUTES, ADDING EITHER BLEACH OR SPECIAL LIQUID DROPS TO KILL BACTERIA, ETC.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  This rule can actually mean the difference between life and death:  when one is careless, the result is so much misery one may wish they could die.

I help set the table for lunch, and put a plate on the table for the maid.
(I later discover the absolute need to have someone helping in the home.  I will write more about that in another blog.)  Our hostess asks me how many plates I placed .  I tell her, she does a mental count and tells me I’ve put one too many.
“And the maid?” I ask.
“No, the maid doesn’t eat with us. She eats in the kitchen.”
In the states, when someone came to do some work for me, we always ate together.  I was embarrassed and felt sorry for the maid. (With time, I learned that my “mirror” didn’t fit this situation.)

The classes are invaluable. The class that makes the biggest impression still helps me today, 49 years later.
Learn how to laugh – especially at yourself!
This is a new culture you are learning. Life will be full of challenges.  But as long as you can laugh at your mistakes, and even at your own tears and fears, you will make it through.  You will learn to depend upon God to greater depths, causing you to grow in understanding and compassion with others.
Remember how to laugh.  Learn how to relax – trusting God.  Learn!”

The kaleidoscope of life begins turning more rapidly around me.  image-woman-in-kaleidoscope
New language. New sights. New sounds. New smells. New colors. New stars in the sky.  Nothing is familiar.
I must keep God (the Trinity) as my focus so I won’t be drawn off into the unknown that surrounds me, and also help my children do the same.
Many verses in the Bible take on more depth and meaning.
One of them is: “Be still, and know that I am God!”   Psalms 46:10a
That is one powerful verse in my life!
What about you?  Are there times when you feel overwhelmed with the confusion of the world we live in?  What do you do?

HOUSE OF MIRRORS : Concepts for survival and sanity

Image result for picture house of mirrors
I’m 8 years old at a traveling carnival.
Holding onto my parents’ hands, we walk into a tent full of funny mirrors.  People stand in front of them, some laughing, some screaming hilariously , and others walking away with disgusted looks on their faces.
Mom and Dad take me to one mirror: the three of us are long and funny looking.  The next one we’re all short and grossly fat.  I try to touch the mirror, but my hand changes so much that I draw back, a little frightened.
I didn’t see anything funny and am glad to leave!
I’m 15.  We are visiting an entertainment park, and go into the house of mirrors.
My friends and I all started laughing at each other, and the images in the mirrors.
It was funny – but at the same time I didn’t like it  That person in the mirror was a “me” that I didn’t know.
I’m in my early 30’s and sitting in a class studying the elements of culture shock.
The teacher uses an illustration about a “house of mirrors” and, although we are the same, the images thrown back at us are of someone we don’t really know. There are glimpses, but we have difficulty seeing ourselves in the reflections
When we are in a culture that is strange to us, we do what we’ve always done, but the reactions (mirrors) in those around us too many times show us something different.
This creates an inner confusion and we begin to wonder who we  really are?
 We need a mirror with the correct reflection so we can regain our balance and make better decisions.
August 1967  Santos, Brasil
When I move to Brazil, a new language and a new culture inundate me from the moment I step off the ship onto the docks: the smells, the yelling by the dock workers as they unload our containers from the Japanese freighter/passenger ship – and I can’t understand a word!
I follow someone through the utter confusion. Boarding a bus to take us to Sao Paulo (about 50 miles away), I look out the window and see road signs that I can only guess their meaning. Looking up at the sky and back at the now miniature docks and ocean, the bus heads up the winding road on the mountainside, leaving the ship that has been home for three weeks. I am overwhelmed. I recognize the only thing that still looks the same is the sky but even THAT will become unfamiliar at night with different galaxies and stars.
The vegetation along the way, how the people dress, even the sounds around me on the bus, and the bus itself:  it is ALL different.  The only thing I have to hang onto that hasn’t changed is God.
My new life is beginning. How is hanging onto God’s hand going to help me as I walk into this humongous “house of mirrors.?”
Have you ever asked yourself this question when life suddenly changes?  Maybe you planned the change; perhaps it happened against your will.
Regardless of the reason, every day the question pounds in your mind:  “How do I get out of this?”Image result for picture house of mirrors

What Does DIFFERENT Mean?



Today, we are living smack in the middle of different!


When I’m out on the street, in stores or offices, I may hear at least three different languages:  English, Spanish, and/or Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese . . .

Each of these languages represents a different culture and different belief system.
In Seattle, the international airport has instructions in English and Japanese.  Probably the majority of airports in the US have instructions in English and Spanish. Many business automatic phone responses say: “Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish.”


Because I lived in another country and learned how to bond into it, I recognize many of the feelings of being “lost” in the USA of today.
I’m being forced to learn the culture of a country I don’t know, a country that doesn’t even know itself.

I painfully realize that I am, once again, going through culture shock.  And lucky you, who have never traveled outside of the US! you don’t even have to leave the country to experience culture shock.  It’s HERE!


Am I to get so irritated with all of the changes that I think about nothing else? Or hide out in my home or apartment and pretend there are no changes?    Do either of these questions resonate with you?



From where I stand, it looks like we have three basic choices with many variations.

Denial – attempting to keep some form of normalcy in our homes and avoiding what is happening outside.

Give in – to the merry-go-round – and give up: let everyone do what they want. Jump into the culture and get what you can.

Or – find some place where we can place our feet that is solid and does not change, so we can see the reality of our circumstances


I desire to share with you different concepts that helped me learn to live in Brazil, and the concepts that are helping me now.  For we are definitely on a journey as this country changes and as the world changes: an age that many believe are the last days talked about in the Bible.


When one is in the midst of chaos and change, one needs a point of reference and stability that does not change.  

That is the first step, and it helps us to keep our sanity,


I will write about thisglobe hands-different-cultures basic concept in my next post.


  • Voni





We are driving late at night down a dark, unfamiliar highway in the state of Minas Gerais. Four of us are cramped into our old station wagon, surrounded with instruments and suitcases, some taking up passenger room inside and some tied in a carrier we have on top of the car.  We are all tired, trying to doze but taking turns keeping our driver awake. I can’t keep my eyes open, and sleep, leaning against the car door.  Suddenly, for no reason, I awaken, look ahead of the car and scream: “STOP!!!”  Cal slams on the brakes, turning to me with that “What’s the matter with you” look, and I point a trembling finger ahead.  He looks … we are speechless for we see NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing.  The road abruptly ends about 30 feet in front of us at a drop off into a chasm.  Scattered around the area are old warning signs, obviously doing no good.


All four of us are now tremblingly aware of how close we’d been to death, and we pray, thanking God for His protection.


Cal is able to maneuver the car to turn it around on the narrow blacktop road and we head back to find the main highway we had mistakenly left.


No more sleeping until we reach our destination in the mountains an hour and a half later. Upon arrival, bed for most is a sleeping bag on an old plank floor.  My husband and I are lovingly honored by giving us an ancient iron bed that has springs poking through the mattress.  It’s so cold we sleep in our clothes (gives us a little more protection from the poking springs.:) )  The bitingly cold air comes up through the mattress from below the bed and I curl up in as much of a ball as I can, attempting to get warm.

As I finally drift off to sleep for a few precious hours of rest, I am still thanking God, shiveringly remembering the blackness of NOTHING, and wondering if it was my guardian angel who awakened me.

July 2016

32 years since this happened, but in my memory it is still sharply etched. I will never forget that black emptiness of physical NOTHING.

There are other types of NOTHING.
I experienced the black emptiness of emotional NOTHING
when my husband abandoned our children and I in 1987 for another woman and their children. This time, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was different – and it lasted much longer.

Truly, David the Psalmist was right on when he wrote: “He (God) leads me through the valley of the shadow of death; His rod and staff protect me.”  Psa 23

What about you?  What NOTHING have you had to walk through or are now walking through?

I am here tonight to remind you that HE CARES!  You are not alone, never!  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.   God is here, always beside you and I, waiting for us to acknowledge His presence, and to learn how HE FILLS THE NOTHING!globe7




Into the Unknown

I am standing on the ship’s deck,  staring through the darkness, straining to see the lone figure of my brother leaning on his canes, with his back against a warehouse.  The dock is completely empty, as is the deck of our ship. All of the friends and well-wishers went home several hours ago.  Only my brother remains.  Many times I’m upset with him for what he calls “determination” and I call “stubbornness.”  But, this morning, at 2 a.m., I am thankful to see him there.


The noise of the cranes loading this Japanese freighter/passenger ship and the shouting voices of the workers has ceased: the freight took much longer to load than expected and we are almost eight hours late leaving port.  All is blessedly quiet… most of the passengers are already in their cabins.


My hands on the railing feel a quiet vibration.  The ship’s motors are starting, and my stomach is tense. I watch as the myriad colored streamers of crepe paper between the ship and the dock rise up out of the water, growing taut: then breaking or falling off the dock or ship.  I had never understood the emotional experience of watching the separation of  a ship from the shore.  Tonight I do.  Our ship moves and the figure of my brother grows smaller, then fades into the darkness.


I continue standing there, looking at the darkness with intervals of light from the port as we slowly glide by.  I still have my hands on the railing as the tugs throw off their lines to our ship, and we sail out into the Pacific Ocean, leaving Long Beach, CA. and the United States behind us.


A cool ocean breeze picks up as the ship increases her speed.  I shiver.  Turning away from the railing I brush the tears from my face and head for the cabin where my children and husband are sleeping.  I slip into the cabin. Without turning on any light, I get ready and slide into my bottom bunk.   The new sounds of a glass tinkling in its holder, the porthole curtains brushing against the window,  my younger children stirring in their sleep, the vibration of the ship’s motors … new sounds, a new life.


Am I prepared for it?  I don’t know. I’ve studied about cross-cultural communication, culture shock, different cultures and attitudes.  But studying and preparation, are different than living it.   How will my five children do?  15, 14, 12, 5 and 3   I have no idea.  I recognize that by most people’s standards, this move to Brazil is absolutely crazy!  At times, during the past years of preparation I, too, wondered about all of this move.  But each step of obedience led to the next until, tonight, we are on this ship, sailing into a new life.

Lord, we’re definitely going into the unknown.  I have nothing for security other than You.  Please watch over us.  Show me things and people as YOU see them.  Give us wisdom.  Protect my children and husband and I.  May I hang tightly onto Your hand. . . 


The quiet sounds and an exhausted body and mind help me fall asleep.  Tomorrow will start the next phase of my life.

  • Voni

Have you ever left everything behind emotionally or physically?
Can you identify with the emotions of the ship pulling away from the land?

How good are you at hanging onto God’s hand?      

2016 April
Once again, going into the unknown as Joe and I leave Brazil to go to the US on May 3rd.  Walking into the unknown never stops as we walk with the Lord.  What gives me courage to walk is because He is holding our hands.              globe7


Isa 41:9-13

9 I took you from the ends of the earth,

from its farthest corners I called you.

I said, ‘You are my servant’;

I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


11 “All who rage against you

will surely be ashamed and disgraced;

those who oppose you

will be as nothing and perish.

12 Though you search for your enemies,

you will not find them.

Those who wage war against you

will be as nothing at all.

13 For I am the Lord, your God,

who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, Do not fear;

I will help you.


What in this World Is the Kingdom of God?

Mt Hood - person standing -expansive view

Jesus taught: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things (food, clothing, shelter, and guidance) will be added in your lives.”

Are these beautiful words with no practical application?  Or is there a depth here I’ve not yet totally understood?


How do I seek first the kingdom of God?
Does this mean if I seek other things first, I am shooting myself in my own foot?


How much do I believe of what Jesus Christ teaches?  Everything ? or only what makes sense in my own mind?

Are His words stretching reality just a bit, or are they truth?


 Not easy questions!  But questions that bombard me at different times.  And I wonder about  you?


I will be writing more about the kingdom of God – from how I view it today. In reality, my view is interwoven in everything I write and teach, and now I hope to write about some fascinating specifics I’ve learned. I’ve been surprised at some of the concepts I now perceive. Perhaps they are different from yours. I will enjoy receiving comments and ideas from you!  Please put them in the comment section at the end of this post. . . thanks!


First Questions
– is the Kingdom of God actually a real kingdom?  A different kind of nation?  Why would I want to be part of it?  What is in it for me ?l


However, before we tackle the above questions, I desire to share with you some different “building blocks.” They created a foundation of belief for me, that becomes firmer the more I learn and experience the reality of God’s Word.


Building Block 1 –
Me, as a person.

My name is Voni.   I’m 83, one of those white-haired women you may meet on the street or in church.    I walk with a cane and, sometimes need help getting up out of a chair.  It takes me a few minutes to unfold this tall body (5′ 9 1/2 inches have shrunk to about 5′ 8 1/2 inches.)

At this very moment, I’m sitting in our small living room in an apartment in Natal RN Brazil: a city most of you have never heard of, and where I feel “at home.” .. The sliding glass door onto our minuscule veranda (where my husband hangs a hammock for me every day), looks out at tall buildings framing views of the ocean and sand dunes. The solid wood front door is open right now. Looking out that door, I see a corridor open to all  weather because of large open “windows” without glass  The breeze between the two doors is controlled by how much we open them; during the days both remain open.  Sitting here, the wind ruffles my hair and refreshes me as it swishes past.
I live in two different nations: the USA and Brazil.  My experiences have taught me much more than any “book learning” about the differences between different nations and different cultures. Living the phrase of “cross-cultural communication”, with many tears and times of laughter,  weaves an ever larger tapestry in my life with myriad colors.



Building Block 2 –

As a child, I had a strong and loving human father – which makes it much easier for me to relate to my Father in heaven.  Dad was not a “perfect man”, and I was certainly not a perfect daughter!  (I still remember in the summers, when I was 10 and 11, grabbing a book I delighted in reading and climbing up into my favorite cherry tree, where the branches came together to create a wonderful chair, perfect for me to sit and read.  The leaves of the tree hid me from sight of anyone below.  When Mom called me, looking for me to help her, I would remain totally still until she had passed by.)  Those were wonderful days for reading!


Building Block 3 –

As a child, Mom and Dad told me about God.  I learned to talk to Him, starting with my nighttime prayers.  He became my Friend, and I learned to converse with Him on a daily basis.  I had much to talk over with Him: life wasn’t easy. 

At home: Green-cherry fights with my brother. Chasing the chickens and gathering eggs (those chickens did not like either one!)

The geese in our field chasing me (that was not pleasant!)  Riding our plow horse bareback, only with a halter.  Walking the country road a mile to the school. (That mile was loonng! especially when it was raining.)  Setting the table for Mom before our family meals; then drying the dishes.  (My younger brother had other chores: I believed his were much easier!)

At school: I am the tallest person in my classes until the 8th grade.  My body felt awkward to me.  I wore steel rimmed spectacles and my hair was bobbed. I was self-conscious of my looks and lack of athletic ability. I felt like an “outsider”.  Only in junior high did I begin to “blend in with” the others at school.


Building Block 4 –
I learn how to read the Bible. I talk to God about it.

 I definitely test it, over and over again.
I learn some basics:
a) God does not play with words
.  What is written in His Word is the way it is.  I can rebel against His word, refuse to obey Him and live with the consequences. . However, the pain I may feel as I obey Him is far less than the pain that comes as a result of not obeying Him!   I also learn, I may dislike the word “obedience”, but there are definite advantages or blessings for me as a consequence of obedience.
b) The realization that God keeps His Word. 
One of the basic verses I learn as a reality:

Romans 8:28  “ALL things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose.”  That includes good and bad, steel rimmed spectacles, kids snickering because my body was awkward, feeling alone – and it is the loneliness which causes me to turn more and more to God.


Building Block 5 –

Without my being aware of it, I was raised in a different culture than the outward culture of the United States.  Many things overlapped culturally:  but if there were a conflict, God’s laws were the final word.  This created a basic foundation for the many changes that I face over the years, as well as my physical and emotional challenges


What about you?  How were you raised?  

Can you identify building blocks in your life?   positive or negative?     What are they?


What do the building blocks have to do with the Kingdom of God and my questions at the beginning?


The building blocks are the foundation upon which we unconsciously base our beliefs.  It is good if we know what kind of foundation we have.


  • Voni                                                              


What Is a Flea?

flea and dog)November 1967

We are standing, sweating and frustrated, in the midst of a laughing crowd of Brazilians watching our funny antics.  How did we ever get  into such a situation?  It was like this.


The house we are renting is on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, a city of about 1 and a half million.
The area is fairly new, so we live on a rutted dirt street, with many empty lots, some with bits of garbage scattered, all full of tall dry grass.

We like the house and our neighbors, but we now have a serious problem.  We’ve been invaded with fleas – MANY FLEAS.

Since there are no markets close to us, and the occasional drug store doesn’t carry flea powder, we are going to have to go downtown; about a 45 minute bus ride.


This morning we get up early to walk five blocks down the dusty dirt road to catch the bus.  We hope to beat the heat and it is still pleasant as we leave the house.  However, when we climb into the packed passenger bus, the heat is waiting for us.  We hang onto the overhead hand bar as more and more people get in.  The term “sardines in a can” – I am living it.

The ride seems interminable as the bus sways through the heavy traffic.  My husband and I speak very little, for when we open our mouths and the English language comes out, heads turn, looking for the strange sound.  It’s embarrassing and simpler to keep quiet, observing, listening, thinking.


We finally reach our destination in the center of town and clamber down the steep steps to the street.  The sidewalks are crowded, so we pedestrians  are constantly dodging each other, but at least we can move! I am feeling droplets of sweat on my arms, inside of where they bend at the elbow.  I look around to see if I can find a temperature sign somewhere. Nope.  But I know it’s getting hotter.


We arrive at Lojas Americanas, a large store with “popular prices.” It is always full of people, and today is not different.  The two large entrances gape open: the multiple steel pull-down doors at both entrances are rolled up and anchored, allowing the crowds of people to move in and out and, hopefully, for breaths of fresh air to enter.  The oversize ceiling fans turn rapidly, hopefully to help move the air.  But too many people with body heat, too expansive an area for the fans to work well, too small of aisles, and today’s heat turns the inside of the store into a sweat shop.

As we stand outside waiting for a break to go in I think: oh! Those poor clerks!


We step into a break and are carried by a jostling crowd down the small aisles, merchandise piled all around us.  We come to where it looks like we’re at the correct area, step ouof the flow of human bodies to stand close to the counters, searching for a clerk.  He comes up and asks us how he can help us.  My husband starts to ask for flea powder. He remembers the word for powder   but his mind then goes  blank.  What is the word for flea???

He looks at me, my mind isn’t working either. Both of us reach into where we carry our small pocket dictionaries, and neither one of us has one!  

 Panic hits.  We have to resolve this now.  How do we mimic a flea???flea 1


People stop and stare. Our area becomes impassible as a crowd gathers, laughing at these two Americanos, going through crazy gyrations.  More and more people come up, craning their necks to see what is happening.  I’m thinking if we could only charge admission for this. .  (Now, tell me, how would you mimic a flea hopping up your arm???  Does that make you chuckle?  Then you get my point.)


I want to cry, from embarrassment and frustration, but won’t let myself..

As we are going through more antics (with no success except laughter), behind me I hear ENGLISH!  I turn. A small, older, totally unruffled gentleman is standing there, saying; “Perhaps I can help you?”

I want to throw my arms around him and kiss him, but I restrain myself to a smile and a “Yes, please!”


We explain our problem. He smiles and asks:  “Do you mean “pulga?”   PULGA – THAT WAS IT!.


The crowd around us starts to dissipate as our free show came to an end.  We thanked the gentleman, turned to the clerk and my husband asks him:

Vocês têm pó para matar as pulgas?”  (Do you have powder to kill fleas).
The clerk smiled, “Sim!”  “Quantas?” (How many do you want?)

He was surprised at the definite answer. “Oito!!!  (Eight cans)

After all, there were a lot of fleas in the house, we needed to have a reserve stock of flea powder for the future, and neither one of us wanted to return to this store any time soon!


Until today, I sometimes wonder how long we would have been there if that gentleman had not come up.

The scripture held true:” When you call, I will answer.”  Thank You, Father!….. I wonder it that was an angel?  Either way, for me, it was a miracle!


Lessons learned:  We never again forgot the word pulga.  We always kept our pocket dictionaries with us (today, one would use their smart phone.)
We learned how, once again, to laugh at ourselves.  . . which is great for humility!

And yes! We got rid of those nasty fleas!flea 3
Things I’ve thought about since:
I’m afraid this happens too many times in our spiritual lives.
Do you see a possible comparison here of not knowing, not prepared, no back-up resources?Sweating and frustrated.

How would you describe it?

Alone – But Not Home

Rio de Janeiro - looking down hillside to CityI’m smiling as I stand barefoot, on a grass lawn: I kick off my shoes so I can feel the coolness of the grass under my feet – so different from the concrete around our home in Belo Horizonte!   We arrived in Rio de Janeiro this morning after an exhausting 8 hour bus trip during the night: cooler to travel at night.    Our bodies are tired, but mine is being refreshed.

After delicious hot café com leite (boiling hot milk poured into strong dark Brazilian coffee with natural raw sugar to sweeten it,) freshly baked and still warm crunchy individual pães (french bread) broken open and covered with dabs of melting butter and exotic fruit marmalades, different sliced cheeses, sweet pineapple slices and papaya – that was our breakfast, sprinkled with laughter and love!

I am now wandering outside with the warm sun on my back and from the vantage point of this high hill, looking over the lawn’s retainer wall  below me to see a mosaic of houses, then of tall apartment buildings and businesses and, there, in the far distance, I see the glint of the Atlantic Ocean under the canopy of a deep azure sky.

As I wander on the grass, I am conscious of the voices in the background: friends conversing intermingled with the laughter of children.  But this is my moment alone, and I cherish it and hold it like a soap bubble shimmering in my hand.  I know it won’t last long, but I’m enjoying the beauty of it while I have it.

My muddled thoughts become words to God.  Questioning the financial challenges we’re experiencing (because donors in the states didn’t keep their promises of giving to our mission outreach), on top of the other strains and stresses of language and life with all the cultural customs that we keep bumbling into.

“Lord, what can we do differently?  Where can we go for help?”

As my thoughts and question form into words, I continue looking around me, feeling the sun and the green grass, my physical body soaking in the sounds and sensations of the day that surrounds me.  This is so good!


My conversation with God continues.  Father, where can we go for help?
We are foreigners in a strange country.  Here in Brazil, there are no such things available when needed like food stamps, welfare, unemployment benefits.  I become aware that, in the states, I had unconsciously depended upon the “safety net” these government services provided.  But now – there is no safety net. There is nowhere nor no one to whom we can turn to for help.

I suddenly stop, when the thought penetrates into my brain.
We are totally alone here. There is only God to help us.
It is between Him and us!


I look up at the blues of the sky overhead. I watch small clouds playfully dancing past, changing shapes fashioned by the winds.  I feel the breeze blowing through my hair and touching my skin.  I feel life around me and life in my body.  My mind is quiet and at rest.

I’m astonished at the peace I am sensing.

God, my Father.  The One I’ve talked to since I was a small child in my bedroom, with Whom I conversed when I fed the chickens and gathered the eggs, Who was my friend when I climbed a special cherry tree, its branches forming a natural chair for me to sit and read, hidden from others by its rustling leaves, Who has comforted me when I wept, and danced with me when I laughed.
He is beside me at all times. . . I can trust Him.


We will depend upon Him.  He is our safety net.  Government red tape fails.  People we love, fail.  But God does not fail!  His Word is true reality.

I stand there alone, surrounded by His love and thank Him. My life focus has forever shifted.
I turn towards my children as they call to me to come see something they want to share with me. The soap bubble disappears.
My mind is no longer muddled.

I personally know Who is with us.  We need no one else.

 Jesus and under his wing


Ps 91:1-2

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge
and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
NIV                                                             -Voni 

How do you think my focus changed?  Do you think it was a  positive change?

What about you?  What is your focus?

Are you trying to resolve everything by yourself, yet failing miserably?

Have you hit the wall, and you have no one to turn to?

Read the rest of Psalm 91 and Psalm 23.  Read them out loud, slowly and thoughtfully, listening.

Let me know what you think. . .




Fruit-Market-in-Rocinha-FavelaSTREET MARKET: “ I DID NOT BARGAIN FOR THIS!”
Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil    October 1967

The people in the street market set up their booths early in the morning as the sun is coming over the horizon.  This market is about two blocks long; the booths set up on both sides of a main street near the airport. I walk from our house carrying three large sacolas (bags) down a hill on a dirt trail about two blocks long, then half a block on a brick-paved street where women are outside of their walled houses, sweeping the side walk.

I have my list in my hands, the translated names for the fruit and vegetables are on the paper so if the people working in the booths don’t understand my accent, I can show them the names of what I want.
I’ve carefully calculated  that ½ kilo = 1.1 lb.,  1 kilo = 2.2 lb., 250 gramas = ½ lb. and I’m ready to watch the balance scales closely as someone rapidly throws the proper balance weight into one side of the scale and then piles the fruits or vegetables on the other side to balance it out.

My written list of words comes in handy for I’m not yet succeeding in saying well words like pera (pear), goiabada (guava), mamão (papaya),  cenoura (carrot),  alface  (lettuce) … and oh! So many more!

One of the street urchins who earns money by carrying people’s sacolas comes up to see if I want his help.  Three bags = 3 boys.  The haggling of who are the 3 is completed: I give a sacola to each one, and turn back to my shopping.

About five minutes later, I hear kids behind me, laughing.  I turn to see what they are laughing at and, to my dismay, I discover they are laughing at me!   I return to my shopping, trying to ignore the laughter.
But it becomes too much to ignore, so I turn to look again.  Now, it isn’t just the three boys, but there are about 8 boys following me; every time I say something to someone in a booth they start laughing, some of them even falling down and rolling on the ground – laughing at the way I am talking.

I am chagrined!  I don’t dare let them know how much they are upsetting me, so I turn, finish my bargaining and put the rest of the fruits and vegetables in the bags, and head for home.  As I walk, I pray that this whole gang will not follow me all the way home.  Thank God, they didn’t!  The lure of making some money carrying sacolas for others walking in the market was stronger than being able to laugh at this strange lady and her barbaric murder of the Portuguese language.

As I walk back up the hill to our house in the mid-morning heat, those sacolas are heavy for those kids carrying them, but I feel no mercy.  I’m still steaming!

We arrive at my home, I pay them for their help; they thank me and turn, giggling and run back down the dirt path.

I carry the bags, heavy with those strange named fruits and vegetables, into the house; then I slam the door – HARD!

My family looks up, startled.  “Mom, what’s the matter?”

My voice almost cracks as I answer heatedly, between tears and laughter: “It’s one thing to have adults smile huge smiles when they hear me speak, but I DID NOT BARGAIN FOR THIS – TO HAVE THESE LITTLE STREET KIDS ROLL ON THE GROUND LAUGHING, EVERY TIME I OPEN MY MOUTH TO SAY SOMETHING!”

I want to go into the bedroom and have a good cry!  Instead, I head up the stairs to the kitchen – to get cold water, cool off, and tackle the extra prep cleaning necessary to use what I’d brought home.

As I work, I have a very detailed conversation with God about the whole situation! I gradually calm down.  Yes, my pride was hurt – but I also had to smile a littleThose kids definitely had had a good time . . . and I don’t think they have many opportunities for fun – even if it was at my expense.  But, oh! Dear Lord, is it going to happen again at the next street market?  HELP!”

 -Children-of-Belo-Horizonte,-Brazil.-12617 (1)


I wonder:  how many times have you gotten things you didn’t bargain for?
That aren’t supposed to be part of your life?
Have you been laughed at?  Made to feel foolish?
The thing I have to keep asking myself:
“Is my self-esteem based upon what others think of me? Or upon the fact that God calls me His child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls me His friend?”  And the ever present reality that I am loved by Him!    Thank You, Father and Lord!

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me.
He delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalms 34:4 NIV


– Voni