Michael, thank you for making me the happiest girl in the world. You are my hero and my prince, more than I ever could have hoped or dreamed. Life with you is incredible – so thankful to call you mine! I love you forever & longer than that. XO
Generally, I’m a pretty positive person. And I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for having been pretty cool about this whole moving to Brazil thing. I think I’ve handled it really well. And for the most part – for the first 7 months – it wasn’t THAT tough because I was genuinely happy and super excited to be here. It was a decision that Michael and I made together, after careful thought and much prayer. It was an opportunity that Michael worked many long hours to make happen. And it was an adventure. For us. Together. And I love a good adventure!
Then came 7 months. The 7 Month Slump. Suddenly – and it was literally overnight – I started getting frustrated so easily by the big and the little things about life in Brazil. The streets are dirty, people are always smoking, the air is terribly polluted, it smells bad, everything is extremely overpriced, our apartment layout is weird, I don’t have a real job, things never work right, everything is ten times more difficult and more bureaucratic than it should be, the internet is always kicking me offline, I’m living permanently without a microwave, a dryer & a disposal, my oven is too small to fit a regular cookie sheet and my dishwasher, well, you can see what I am working with here, I miss my friends and family from home and sometimes Portuguese really gets on my nerves. UGH.
Poor Michael — for a couple of weeks every little thing about Brazil and our life here was getting to me. I just didn’t feel relaxed — it was almost like I was waiting for something to happen (like for us to MOVE) but there was nothing to wait for. We were not moving and this country was not changing.
Throughout life we are called, over and over, to make the choice to persevere in love through difficulty and challenges. Just because something is hard – be it a job, a marriage, children, friendships, pursuing a dream – it doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong or even that you necessarily need to change anything. Sometimes things are hard because you’re doing them RIGHT. I mean, some things are just tough. So although it was a challenge, it was also an opportunity to practice choosing joy and making the best of something that I wasn’t FEELING that great about.
We have now been in Brazil for over 8 months and I can confidently say that I am the happiest here yet and there is nowhere else I would rather be. I know that it’s not always this quick and easy to “bounce back” from something and I know that this challenge was small compared to all of the problems out there – and for that I am truly thankful! – but for me it was a good reminder that love and joy are not always feelings but are often choices made in opposition to our feelings. The hope is that these choices eventually do lead to a change of heart and renewed feelings, but that is not the goal. The goal is to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.
Anyway, I know that all of this is a normal part of adjusting to life in a new country, and somehow, after coming out of it, I feel much more settled here. More content. More permanent. More at home.
In my recent Things I Miss post, I mentioned that since moving to São Paulo, Michael and I have missed our church in San Francisco – City Church. We miss it for many reasons, but a major one was the community that we had there. We were blessed to have made friends and to have each joined Community Groups where we would gather on a weekly basis and discuss God’s Word. We would share what we were learning and struggling with. We would eat and drink and laugh and pray together. We would serve our community together. We would encourage each other and hold each other accountable. We would spur each other on towards greater godliness. As you can imagine, this was amazing. Hard at times – of course – but mostly a whole lot of amazing.
And I have been seriously missing this amazing in my life. Because in Brazil, while we have been blessed with a church, a community that we are still getting to know and some awesome friends who love the Lord, it has seemed harder to DO as much here. It’s kind of a hike for us to even get to our church and it’s much more difficult to meet up with others during the week. We don’t have a car, the city is tough, people’s schedules are all over the place, the community is smaller…the list goes ON.
Anyway, as I was missing my GIRLS and Biblical accountability, I simultaneously felt like God was convicting my heart / encouraging me to give Him my FIRST fruits. As in, give Him my MORNINGS. I am NOT a morning person. At. All. And the way my schedule works, I usually have more time scattered throughout the day than I do in the mornings. But He laid it on my heart to spend time with Him FIRST. So, I prayed for God to help because, hello?? Waking up early is hard. Right?!
Then, about 2 months ago, I learned about The Hello Morning Challenge. It’s an online accountability group of women (mostly moms, but they let me in anyway) whose goal is to spend time each morning: 1 studying the Bible, 2 planning their day/setting goals and 3 exercising. Obvi I have been the least faithful with the exercise, but…one step at a time. So, how does it work? Before the challenge starts, you select a group based on:
– Twitter or Facebook: I chose Twitter since I think it’s easier to follow for something like this and, since I never really used it before, I didn’t feel like I would be spamming people.
– Time-zone: I had to go with East Coast since there was *shock* no Brazil group.
They provide a Bible study for everyone to go through together and each morning you check in with your group and – if you want – share what you are learning from the passage that day, send encouragement to each other, etc.
It’s a little unconventional in the sense that it’s all online and I will likely never meet these women in this life, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but God has blown me away with it. I feel so inspired by the faithfulness of these amazing, kind women, who sacrifice to wake up early (earlier than their kids!) each morning to spend time feeding on & studying the Word of God and encouraging their fellow sisters. Also, we are studying 1 Peter together and I have been so blessed by what I’m learning through the Word and just by the daily act of getting up and starting my day by spending time with God.
But, one of the biggest lessons I have learned from all of this is about God. It seems that He desires the hearts and minds of His children so much that He will stop at nothing to provide for us what we need to know Him better — even something so randomly specific as an online accountability group of women who study scripture in the morning. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. He is faithful.
PS: Hello Mornings is a tri-annual thing so maybe next time I can convince some friends around the world to join me…?! You don’t even have to do their Bible study if you’re studying something else… Any takers???
OK. So, a lot of people have written me saying something along the lines of, “I love your blog, it’s great to keep up with what you guys are doing. But HONESTLY…how are you REALLY doing with it all?? How do you really like it? How do you really feel?”
The truth may surprise you, but we REALLY LIKE IT. Michael and I are really happy and we are really happy HERE.
To be honest, I didn’t know how I would like living in Brazil, I mean, I had never been here until we stepped off the plane almost 2 months ago. I had never spoken Portuguese. I didn’t have a job lined up. With the exception of Michael’s brother, Joe, I didn’t know anyone. So in most ways it felt like a pretty big leap of faith to move here. But it was a carefully contemplated and thoroughly prayed over leap. And while I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into, I knew that I didn’t know. What I mean is that I knew that what laid ahead was an adventure. I knew that I would need to be flexible, patient and not too serious. I knew that simple things would suddenly become difficult. I knew that I was leaving my career behind and that I would feel dependent on Michael in a new way (that is not necessarily a fun way). I knew that I would feel lonely and miss my friends and family… So although I didn’t know WHAT to expect, I think I knew HOW to expect it.
And it turns out that while simple things ARE difficult and I AM dependent on Michael, while I DON’T have a career here and I DO miss my family and friends…it has actually been fun. No, I should say it IS fun. We are really enjoying the day-to-day and we KNOW that this is the right place for us right now. Michael and I are constantly saying to each other that we can’t believe we are really here, doing this. I mean, I get to be on this great adventure in a really cool city with my best friend. We have met a ton of awesome people – expats and Brazilians. Honestly, I feel incredibly LUCKY that Michael is working so hard to provide us with this amazing experience. And I know that he feels lucky too, that I am supporting him in as he goes after his dreams. Maybe I expected it to be harder than it is, living here. And there are definitely moments when it’s difficult. But I think that’s more just LIFE than Brazil. I mean come on, life is just tough sometimes, right??
I will say that I have cried ONE TIME since we landed in Brazil. Only once, but it was a big one. It was about a week after we had moved here, Michael had started working, and I felt sadness about the “loss” of my career and confusion about my place here. I think that at this age and especially in big cities, we tend to place a lot of value on being BUSY all of the time. It makes us feel important. And the reality is that I’m just not that busy here. I have FREE TIME. And free time might sound nice, but I bet if a lot of you had free time for a month straight, you might feel a little insecure. A little like, “What the eff am I doing?” So I was feeling that way. But, it has truly been a blessing to me. It revealed to me that I was finding some of my value in places that were neither real nor lasting versus in Christ. A friend once told me that business [of activity] is sometimes a mask for laziness of mind and spirit. I have definitely been guilty of that and I feel like over the past few months God has been sloooowing me down. Not just for the sake of slowing down and stepping back. But stepping back in order to step TOWARD Him. After all, that is what we see Jesus doing throughout His life. Taking time to withdraw not just to “get away” but to get closer to God. And so this is what I have been learning lately, or trying to learn.
Clearly I do not mean that working or being busy are negative things. (In fact this may be the busiest time in Michael’s career.) I think it’s normal for me to feel sad about not being able to continue my career AND I feel confident that over time I will find my place here more and more. I’m just saying that right now, for me, this time has been a blessing and God is using it to grow me in new ways. To grow me in my love for Him, my trust in Him, and my security in His promises. Which makes me all the more thankful to be here, and all the more certain that this is right.
So. THAT is the real deal.
Michael went to Ecuador last week and brought me back a little surprise…
2 Dozen Roses from the Rain Forest in Ecuador!!! ummmmmazing!!!!
And here they are almost a week later – huge blooms, a little antique looking, and just BEAUTIFUL!
Well, we are. To São Paulo. In January (fingers crossed, pending any Visa issues). “Why?” you may ask. Well, the story starts long ago…
Michael grew up taking family trips to Mexico learning Spanish (what a great idea for family vacay’s!). He also lived in Arizona which has a strong Hispanic community so Spanish was a part of his life from the beginning. He continued studying Spanish in school and in college he spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Between undergrad and law school, Michael decided to spend a year abroad and really focus on his Spanish fluency. He considered Spain but his big brother Joe had passed through Argentina and suggested he look there. And so he spent the next year falling in love with Latin America and mastering the Spanish language. He returned to DC for law school but managed to spend his first summer working for a law firm in Costa Rica. After graduation he moved out to San Francisco, yet his heart for South America only grew and he came to the realization that ultimately he wants his career to be about this region of the world, one way or another. His work provided him with opportunities to work on matters in Spanish and travel a bit, but when he heard that his law firm, Jones Day, was opening an office in São Paulo…there was no stopping him. It was actually an amazing thing to watch. It was like Michael put on blinders and with a laser focus, started teaching himself Portuguese, familiarizing himself with the region, and even published an article on Brazil’s Antitrust Legal system. And then, the hard work paid off when his office granted him the opportunity to transfer.
At this point, Michael is conversational in Portuguese and feels confident he’ll be fluent within a couple of months on the ground. I know how to say a few key words like “fish,” “sandwich,” “driving,” …all of the important things you need to get around. But I am diligently studying with Rosetta Stone.
Pending any Visa issues, we are hoping to fly directly after the New Year and start getting acclimated. It typically takes about 3 months to ship & receive stuff so we will likely start off in furnished housing or a hotel and will then hunt for our apartment.
So that’s the story and the update on where we are in the process. I know that it will be an adjustment full of challenges and that I’ll miss my family, friends, and the greatest country on earth, but I am SO excited for the adventure ahead and so grateful that God has prepared this path for us and us for this path.
I hope that this blog will help me capture some final memories in San Francisco and then will serve as a way to document the journey ahead. Thanks for joining us! 🙂
One of our pastors was recently preaching on “The Wise & Foolish Builders” (Matthew 7:24-29 and Luke 6:46-49), talking about how we build our lives on the foundation of Christ and the Gospel. He gave the analogy of how any buildings that are constructed in San Francisco literally have their foundations bolted into the ground, hundreds of feet below the surface, and how the ones that are bolted down to a firm foundation are much stronger than even those that are just built on top of a good foundation.
It made me think to times in my life when my faith was really bolted down and to the people who influenced that. I thought back to Wofford College and to Kelli Kirkland Mayfield, to all of the hours upon hours she spent with me, bolting me down. To all of the fun times and to all of the hard conversations that we had as she walked with me and helped guide me. I thought back to the days and nights that she spent on her knees beside me on the floor in my dorm room praying, often through tears, for me and loved ones in my life. And what an eternal impact all of that made on me.
It’s challenging to think — what am I doing to help secure and solidify others in their faith in Christ? I pray that I will be used in this way throughout my life. And I pray that even in passing, I would live in such a way to at least encourage others towards Him.
Love you KKM!