By Sarah Langness

I don’t know what it means, by actual definition, to “throw your back out”. But I may have done that last Thursday afternoon. If it wasn’t “thrown out”, my lower back was definitely stretched and strained to the point of extreme pain in a way I hope to never endure again. The problem is, sometimes I forgot that I’m a) pregnant and therefore my body is already stretching and pulling in all sorts of different directions; and b) that even if I wasn’t pregnant, it’s never a good idea to hold a 24-pound weight on one side of your body while leaning down in the opposite direction to lift a nearly 10-pound purse. The result? I walked around with an ice pack stuck in my pants and could barely stand up straight due to the pain in my lower back.

I never really realized how vital the use of my back is to every day, ordinary actions. Like rolling over in bed. Like being able to sit on the floor and change my son’s diaper. Like putting on a pair of pants.

After last week’s incident, I realized how often I forget to be grateful.

And so often, I think we all forget. We get so used to what we have, with the people that we are blessed with in our lives, that we begin to take it all for granted. It seems like, more often than not, we become grateful for something only after it’s gone.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I encourage you not to forget. To not just take a moment to thank the Lord for the “big” things, the “obvious” things, the “generalized” things. But take a moment to consider the little ones, the less-noticed blessings. For the fact that the furnace is working. For being able to roll over in bed without pain. For the blessing of hearing laughter. For fridges to store that abundance of leftovers in. For the inventor of disposable diapers. For soft toilet paper. For electric mattress pads.

And whatever you do, don’t just be thankful on Thursday. On Friday, as you brave the Black Friday crowds or pull out your Christmas tree or simply enjoy the presence of family, remember to thank Him. Because all good things, all blessings, come from Him. And we have so many reasons to be thankful.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” – Psalm 136:1-3, NASB



Clay Pots

by Jonni Sliver

While driving home after work one day I heard a pastor on the radio tell how he had been in a car accident, along with his five year old daughter. The car had been nearly demolished but both he and his daughter walked away with just scratches. The pastor said a congregational member who heard the story exclaimed “God is good!” and the pastor replied “You are so right, but God would be just as good if we had both passed away. God is good regardless of the circumstances.” That simple truth has been ringing in my ears lately. We have had several opportunities to see God’s goodness in the difficult moments.

Vilma and Alex came to the Miriam Home this week. Vilma is 16 years old, Alex is her four month old baby boy. She lives with the baby’s father (17 years old) and is doing the best she knows how to care for her son, but she has very little knowledge of raising a child.  Alex is drastically under weight, he has trouble breathing and at four months he can’t follow objects that pass in front of his eyes. We are taking him to doctors to see how we can help this precious little boy. His young mother feels like she has failed, but some of the problems may have come during her pregnancy. Alex is just one day younger than Daniel, the son of one of our house moms, and Vilma sees how different these boys are, and it breaks her heart.

Silvana, 35, has been a friend of the Miriam Home since it opened. She was a house mom for several years and continued to be ready and willing to help in a hundred ways as needs arose in the Miriam Home. Recently she was working part time in the house, helping with a sudden overflow of little ones. On Friday she was on her way here, to setup for a Christmas party on Saturday, together with her fiancée, when they were hit multiple times in a drive by shooting. Silvana passed away Saturday morning, and the loss for her family and friends is hard to put in words. In the time it took for their motorcycle to go the length of one block a life was stolen.

Last night our pastor shared 2 Cor 4:7-10. We are clay pots; fragile; easily broken. There is something in that declaration that blesses me. God knows our weaknesses; He knows how easy it is for us to be brought to dust. But He fills our fragile clay pots with His power, with His glory! That is why we are not crushed, forsaken, destroyed by the things that afflict us, persecute us, strike us down. When it seems like we are surrounded by pain, by loss, we see the Life of Christ manifest!

There has been a lot of hurt here this week; the pain of a tiny little life already suffering and the pain of a young life stolen away.  And our Father, who knows us better than anyone, has healing, unique for each one of us. We are not forsaken and though we are bruised, we will heal!

So Much to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is over. By now you may be feeling a little lighter, and most of the leftovers have been reinvented as casseroles, sandwiches and soup. The house is back in order (and maybe it is already decorated for Christmas) and if you are among the courageous, the fruit of your pre-dawn Black Friday foraging are waiting to be wrapped.

Thanksgiving in Brazil is very different – basically Thursday, Nov. 22nd was just another day.  No turkey, no big family gatherings and no football. But there is so much to be thankful for, and even as I miss one of my favorite holidays, the heart of it is very present – remembering the incredible ways God pours our His grace and favor!

Sometimes His blessings come in big ways. Like Cleberson finding a family of his own. This sweet seven year old has been with us for almost a year now, and made his way into our hearts in just days. This precious little boy was so completely abandoned, and when a Free Lutheran Family in Curitiba met Cleberson, it was love at first sight. Seeing Cleberson bond with Juliano and Claudineia; seeing a real family being formed is amazing! And worthy of great thanks!

Sometimes the blessings come in little ways, like Lucy. I have always loved dogs, as a child I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have one. I really miss having a pup of my own. Here, in Campo Mourao, we have big property that houses the AFLC Bible School and the Miriam Infant Home. We have two dogs that belong to ministry, but they are guard dogs, on chains and definitely are not “pets”. We also have a steady stream of dogs that appear, hang around for awhile and then are gone again. Then Lucy arrived. Like the rest of the strays, we don’t know where she came from, but we know she had a family, because she already knew some tricks. It just took days for us all to fall in love with her, in two weeks she had a name, she had visited the vet and received shots and treatments for little friends inside and out. Within a month she had a new owner (the caretakers of the AFLC retreat center nearby will take her to live there the beginning of the year. And I have, for a little while, a pet again. I share her with the rest of the family (that is what you do with family), but every day, when I leave the office Lucy is waiting for me – she knows my schedule), and where ever she is on the property, I never have to call her name more than twice before she comes sprinting across the yard (yes, it is because she knows I have a treat – I’m a push over for those happy puppy kisses you get after a few scraps).

A pet, even a temporary one, is not a big deal, in the big scheme of things. That God knows how this dog blesses my heart IS a big deal. One of the things I am most thankful for is that the Father knows my heart and cares for me day by day!