Finding Eliza — Finding Me

Finding Eliza
Portland, OR
I’ve been awake since 4:30 this morning. Unable to sleep, I came out to the living room,   put the computer in my lap. Many thoughts going through my brain, but they are a jumble and confused. I’ll attempt to untangle them.

Yesterday afternoon my mind and body were tired after working on the computer resolving different items. I did something I almost never do: I stretched out on our small sofa. My head on one of the cushioned arm rests, my feet up on the other. It felt GOOD:  my logic to continue lying down was that it was good for my circulation, for my feet were higher than my heart.

Since I didn’t want to waste the time, I reached for my purple Kindle and started reading a book called Finding Eliza by Stephanie Fishman. I was going to allow myself only an hour. WRONG!

Instead of that one hour, I stayed several hours on that small sofa, “improving my blood circulation”, engrossed in a story that touched my mind and my heart. I was vividly reminded of the importance of family and friends, how those relationships help us walk through times of “no answers” for what is happening.   How God’s Word makes a “footprint” in our lives, and brings direction. The author painted scenes with her words that are still vivid in my mind.

The hours swiftly passed. I finished the book, closed my Kindle, and stood up thinking. I’d enjoyed my time reading, I like the book, but I am troubled, restless in my spirit. WHY?

As I tap on these computer keys, I want to put into words the untangling of my emotions from reading Finding Eliza and the challenges she had in relationship with her family.

First: be aware I’m writing this from the viewpoint of moving out of my country to another continent and culture, living there most of my life.
To do that I had to leave behind the yearly family picnics, the easy availability to be with my parents and brother; all the extended family… Hundreds of people
Our six children lost contact with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

We moved into a culture where extended family is very important. I’d had no preparation for the aching loneliness one experiences without extended family and I wept for my children.    As I lived day by day, I literally hung onto the verse Matt 19:29  when Jesus is speaking.
New International Version
    “ And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or  fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

This was back in 1967, before satellite, internet, easy international phone calls, no Skype or Facebook or Google  NOTHING!

A letter took about 10 days (going either to or from Brazil), IF it arrived.
The news shots on TV from other countries were flown into Rio de Janeiro, spliced into the news program that was shown smack between two novellas. (A novella is a serial novel shown five nights a week that lasts for several months. When it ends, another one begins.)  The evening in most homes in Brazil were based around the 6 to 7 pm novella (people were arriving from work), the news 7 to 7:45 pm, and the most important novella 7:45 – 9 pm. By the time the second novella began, almost the whole family would be gathered around the TV to watch it.  If you were to walk down the street, you’d hear the sounds of the same program coming from the open doors and windows.  During the day, strangers on the bus and in the beauty salons would  question each other about the previous night’s episode and speculate on the future of the story.

In the 45 years since then,  the communication  ability in Brazil has changed radically.  No more films flown in. Television is now very sophisticated.  But,TV Globo continues with the same lineup for those evening shows.  Strangers still talk with each other, speculating on the episodes.  I love it.

However, in 1967 we were there, living in the midst of a totally different language, a totally different culture.  I am incapable of describing the depth of emotions and questions: the absolute necessity to read the above scriptures time after time to keep my sanity.  We, and our 5 (soon to be 6) children were living in Brazil, and needed to learn how to be “at home.”

It took three years before I began to feel a little at home.  Lifetime friendships beginning to form, more fluent in the language, the city of 2 million beginning to become familiar; I even knew some good shortcuts when driving. I’d gone through many phases of culture shock, and still had more in front of me.  A challenging time, in all areas of my life.

What does this have to do with Finding Eliza?
Eliza was immersed in a different culture: one for which she was unprepared. I was surprised as I found myself identifying with her frustrations, unbelief and anger.
This little book touched heartstrings in my life, playing chords I’d almost forgotten, causing memories to flood into my mind and soul; reminding me once again of the importance  of family.

Family = Love expressed as we learn to stand together, working through varied personalities, disagreements, but still family, even across thousands of miles.

This requires openness, honesty, vulnerability and lots of forgiveness. God knows we often fail miserably in this family assignment He put into our hands. But He gives us the living example of FAMILY UNITY through the Triune God as He invades our lives with blood relatives, spiritual family, and new friendships; intertwining them in and with our lives, enriching and challenging us.  Forceful lessons!  Concepts to think and pray about. . .  

Tonight, while I am still absorbing this lesson, I ask Him about the future.

Will the Lord allow me to travel, having time with loved ones in both the US and Brazil? How I am hoping for that blessing!  I hate separation. There are so many of you whom I long to see.

But, I have no clear ideas about the future  Gos is, once again, placing me in a situation where – if I want inner peace – I must trust Him. I have to smile and quietly chuckle.He has done this to me so many times over the years. One would think I would have this well learned by now. I have learned the deep joy there is in trusting Him .However, in each circumstance there is the ever new challenge of working through the obedience of trusting once again.

I hope I’ve unsnarled most of the emotions and thoughts from my involvement with Eliza.. We’ll see.
Maybe I will sleep better tonight.
And Stephanie Fishman, thank you. Your book, Finding Eliza, connected with me in areas which I’d almost forgotten.

– Voni




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Life is interesting - and can be challenging. Voni shares with you her experiences

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6 thoughts on “Finding Eliza — Finding Me”

    1. Stephanie, the more I think about your book, the more questions I have.
      HOW did you arrive at the point of writing it. There must be another story here.
      Blessings to you!

  1. Dearest Voni,
    So true – everything you said about cultural differences, loss of family, world of emotions – hard to make sense of things. I guess, I just try to live day by day grateful in my heart to God for what “is today”, otherwise I dive deep into loneliness. One thing I know, God blesses us with adopted families, like yours is to me. No matter how far we are, see or share the same roof, you – Voni- will never get rid of me. Last night at my little birthday celebration with John and Beth, I said “We are stuck for life”. Those are the other blessings that God brings us – adopted family. Oh, how grateful I am for you, then in Contagem and now here in Florida, my friend.

    1. Dearest Eliza,
      What you said is true! I am discovering that the loneliness has nothing to do with the number of people around me: rather, it is the longing to be with those whom I don’t have to explain myself to.
      I love many different people, and I know I am loved. Yet, very few know me well. There are depths of experiences that only those who walked through them with me, know me. How can I explain JOCUM, the lack of conveniences we were all accustomed to intertwined with the richness of teaching and formed relationships. You are a part of that. You are a part of me… and I am so thankful to God that you are!

  2. I love this, Voni. Your life is so full of such rich experiences, and I’m grateful to get to experience them with you, albeit through the medium of writing. Without having been there, I believe you do them justice.

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