Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Drinking from a fire hose (and an exciting announcement!)

With 11 kids ages almost 19 down to 4 months, life moves so quickly.  I take time each Sunday to write an email about our lives to my kids' grandparents and to some close friends.  I really appreciate that time to reflect on the events of the past week and to try to record some of our accomplishments, funny stories, and time together.  Even so, I often feel as if I'm drinking life from a fire hose -- there is always more to do than can be done and so much is happening that I don't get the time I want to simply enjoy it.  I wouldn't change it for the world, but I also am trying very hard to notice and enjoy all the vibrant happenings around me.

I don't take the time to write for this blog as often as I once did, and I'm not sure that will change anytime soon.  Making the daily choice between all the good things I want to do with my limited time is one of the biggest challenges of this stage of my life.  I pray daily for help knowing where to put my efforts and how to help and bless those around me, and I rely on God's help in knowing who needs me where and when.  I don't do everything right, but I sure do try.

Habits, Old and New

Central to managing our lives are the regular habits we've established.  At the beginning of the year, I wrote down a lot of ideas for how to improve myself and my family.  Two new habits have emerged from that.  The first is that my husband and I have set a goal not to miss a day of praying together in the evening.  So far, we've missed only two days, and one of them was when my husband was out of town.

My other habit has to do with my Portuguese study.  When I turned 39 in November of 2016, I set a goal to use Duolingo daily for a year.  We had some new friends from Brazil staying with us and I was inspired by watching Cibele work so hard to learn English.  I'm now going on 460 days of a Duolingo streak.

At the beginning of the year, I was feeling like I wasn't making much progress in becoming more fluent.  My husband suggested reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese.  I set a goal to read 10 verses a day and I am loving it -- I get excited every day to learn more words and I'm getting new insights into the scriptures because reading the words in another language makes me focus on every single word.  For each verse, I read it out loud, listen to it, and translate any words I don't understand. I like to use Google translate rather than an English version because it helps me understand the literal meanings of the words and how they use them in Portuguese.  I use the notes feature to write down the translation of any words I don't understand.  I am still far from fluent, but every once in a while, I can read one or two verses without having to translate ANYTHING.  That always feels awesome.  And sometimes I can read my Brazilian friends' texts or Facebook posts without translation.

I have always considered myself very smart, but I don't think I have a gift for languages at all.  Sometimes I translate the same simple word a dozen times before I recognize it.  And remembering the bazillions of verb conjugations is not coming so well.  But I am a big believer that small acts done regularly can add up to big things, and even if it takes me 3 years to learn what someone else might master in 3 months, I am making progress.

Adventures to Come

So with that background, let me tell you about the most exciting thing that has happened to our family in the last two weeks.

Or maybe I should let Lillian share it . . .

What made the call to Sao Paulo South especially meaningful for Lillian and our family was that Cibele and her kids were there, along with her friend Jessica (Carlos was working that night). Cibele is from that mission in Brazil and she and Carlos have been great friends of our family the last 18 months. With 422 missions in the Church, 34 in Brazil, and 5 that include part of Sao Paulo, it was a beautiful thing to have Lillian called to the very place that Carlos and Cibele recently left.  The mission is one of the smallest in the Church and includes just part of the city of Sao Paolo (it is even smaller than it was when my brother Curtis went to that same mission in the 90s).

I'm excited that Lillian will speak Portuguese and I hope that by the time she comes home in two years, I will be able to follow her conversations with her dad and other Brazilian friends.  Lillian has studied Spanish and passed the AP Spanish test, so the transition will hopefully be easier for her.

The morning after Lillian's call, I reminded the kids about how it was that Carlos and Cibele became our friends. In August of 2016, I went to a Relief Society activity I didn't want to attend. I was busy and it was the same night as back-to-school night and so I had every reason not to go. But I decided I would go and see if anyone needed my friendship. It was there I met Cibele, and though neither of us spoke each other's language, with the help of Google Translate, I was able to invite her to come to dinner at our house that Sunday. 

That Sunday, with DH translating and Joey and Lillian following the Portuguese as well as they could with their Spanish skills, we became fast friends. When they told us they were the only members in their families and that they knew no one in the United States, I told them, "We will be your family." And we were blessed with opportunities over the next few months to make good on that promise, spending time with them reguarly and then inviting them into our home for a couple of weeks when they were between apartments. So I reminded the kids that we go to Church and activities for other people, not just ourselves, and I love how the small and simple act of trying to be a friend to someone has borne fruit in the friendship of the Santiagos as well as the beauty of knowing that when Lillian goes to Sao Paulo, she will arrive with a love for the Brazilian people, brought about by a close friendship with this family. Cibele is certain that Lillian will serve in her area and meet her family.

It was especially fun to share our crazy American holidays with them, like Halloween . . .

... and Thanksgiving.

We were blessed with many other family and friends who came to support Lillian when she opened her call.  It came on a Friday afternoon and she waited until Monday night to open it -- it was so hard to wait!  Lillian had asked her dad to make her favorite Brazilian dish, sao picoa, that night, without even knowing where her call would be.

Lillian opened her call alone two hours before opening it in front of everyone. I think I will encourage the rest of my kids to do something similar. That way, if they don't know where the country is or are disappointed in the location at first, they have time to process it instead of being put on the spot in front of all their friends and family.

I have loved and shared this video before so it was a special treat to see that Lillian's mission president is the Brother Pedro Acosta who is in it.  I love that Lillian's mission president is from Brazil.

Life is beautiful!


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