Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm leaving on a jet plane

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Today, as a ton of people sit beside a Christmas tree with sleepy eyes and festive pjs to open gifts, I am enjoying one of the best gifts I got this year. I am on an airplane making my way to Orlando, Florida.

You see, my husband and I are Disneymaniacs. We had no difficulty coming up with the destination for our first trip together. Three years later, we went as honeymooners. It was the best experience I ever had in my travels.

The hubby is a travel agent, and most people seem shocked that we choose to keep going back to the same place over and over instead of visiting exotic and far off lands. It's plain and simple, though. There is no place like it. We always reply that we'll get to see all those places. When we grow old. 

This time, it will be extra special, because it is a childhood dream come true. Every since I was a little girl, we've had plans to go as a family. It never worked, but now some of us get to go: Mom, hubby, aunt, cousins and I. A big Johnston Family trip.

It's far from perfect. The uncle is not going. My parents are no longer married. My grandma, who always promised us the trip won't take part. And my brother, with his wife and baby won't join us as well, which would have been the cherry on the top. You can tell that my dream is to have a big Kardashian-style family trip. Minus the Kardashian-ness. I will. Someday.

So I bid you farewell (for now). I thought about scheduling posts, but I'm giving myself a break. I'll be back around the 7th with some new ideas, new look, and same focus: Christ.

May God bless you and your family as we turn the page to yet another year. And may we all learn a little bit more about this cross we carry, and focus a lot more on He who deserves all praise.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 21, 2012

This weekend, do something a bit different

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It's the end of the year. We are close to Christmas. Family members flood in from wherever they live, or we tend to fly their way. 

My hope for you is that you are not trapped inside a mall doing last minute shopping, or stressed out over pre-holiday cooking. Years from now, your loved ones won't really remember what you got them, what you cooked, and honestly, it's just not worth it.

Spend time with those you love. Have long talks and hot cups of tea. Enjoy gingerbread cookies and the look of winter on your backyard. Share meals and prayers. 

And above all, don't forget Jesus. It's easy for us to relax from a long and hard-working year on the job to veg out in front of the TV. Christ is our one true love, whom will never forsake us, whom will always be there for us. And I bet He is waiting for you to set some alone time with him. That's way more important than football, shopping or lounging.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coming home

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This is part 8 of my spiritual journey, and it is the last one, for now. Start reading here.

I did some research and stumbled upon the church we now call home. It is completely different in many aspects. It's firmer. It's focused on the bible and gives little space for anything that is not biblical. It's baptist, which I always thought was a synonym for 'backwards'. And I love it. I love it all. 

I love the focus on Jesus, and only on Jesus. I love the people. I love the events. I love that we get to be a family. I love the Bible studies. I love the preaching. And my husband loves it too, which is the most important thing. It's not perfect, but it is home. 

I had to go through an adaptation period. I found out my snobbish behavior was due to embarrassment, because I always read, prayed and worshiped in English. Listening to You are holy in Portuguese and being unable to sing anything other than Michael W. Smith's version can be a bit embarrassing during worship. Having to translate Bible verses to make my point makes me sound inarticulate. But I am getting used to it.

For the first time, I started reading my Portuguese Bible. I started talking about my faith. I started listening to awesome Brazilian Christian scholars, reading Brazilian Christian writers and opening up for fellowship with amazing Brazilian Christians.

What's next? I am not sure. But I do know Jesus takes the mainstage in my life, so I don't worry much about it anyway.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Through the desert

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This is part 7 of my spiritual journey. Start reading here.

So I came back home for good. I told people I was fine, but in reality, I was sulking. I felt I didn't deserve to leave the gorgeous peach state. I was frustrated I knew I'd have an easier life there. And I was determined that I would never find a church like Victory in Brazil.

So obviously, I didn't. For every place I went to, I began a mental list of all its flaws. The worship. The pastor. The location. The lack of air conditioning. My mind just kept going next, next, next!

I hung on to podcasts for dear life. I would listen to Joyce Meyer, Jentezen Franklin, Brian Houston and Joel Osteen. There was no way I'd find anything worthwhile, so I just kept re-reading all my Christian books. I was a total Christian snob, unwilling to get involved with Brazilian Christians.

After a couple of years, we actually did make it to one church we enjoyed, but after a stern comment made by the pastor, we left and never went back. 

Looking back, now I know these were the hardest years in my relationship with Andre. I was snappy. He was too comfortable. We went through emotions like a roller coaster. Until, because of lack of financial means, we had to move out of the city, into a suburb. And then, all of a sudden, the desire for fellowship started growing in me once more.

Come back tomorrow for part 8!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Going back

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This is part 6 of my spiritual journey. Start here

On September 2006 I sent a quick message to a childhood friend wishing him happy birthday. He replied immediately and we began catching up. The next day we spend hours online, talking about everything. Three days later I called him up, and we have spoken every day since that one.

He is now my husband, and I knew he was the one, even back then. He knew too. 

He loves the US and we began talking, dreaming and planning about him going over to Atlanta. People kept telling me to keep it real, except for my mom, who kept telling me to go for it. We pretended we were taking it slow, but we really already knew this was it.

During a sermon at Victory, Pastor Dennis started talking about the difference of doing what we ought to and what we want to. The more he talked, the more I cried. God was moving in me, showing me a truth I did not want to accept.

Go back. 

I looked at my mom through blurred eyes and all she said was we'll find a way to get you back to Brazil. She is the greatest

So I went back for Christmas break. Officially, it was to "see if things would work out with Andre". Trully, I had a deal with God. If he opened a door, a job, I'd go back. Not only did he open up a job, but the internship I had in Norcross was supposed to turn into a job in the next term, and all of a sudden it did not. I got the message, and prepared to move back for good.

Come back tomorrow for part 7!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nothing lasts forever

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This is part 5 of my spiritual journey. Start reading here. 

After about 6 months, the church fell apart. The pastor chose not to renew the contract with the building, and I assumed it meant we would keep meeting at his house, but that was not the case. 

I had no idea of what to do, so I began church hopping with them. I was able to go to some services at World Changers and was amazed at how much I learned from Pastor Creflo Dollar's knowledge of the Bible.

We spent one Sunday at Victory World Church, but my pastor did not like it. We then proceeded to spend a couple of weekends at Free Chapel. I was moved by Pastor Jentezen's charisma and love for the gospel. Their worship was amazing as well.

But although my pastor and wife made a home at Free Chapel, I felt it wasn't mine. I was compelled to go back to Victory. So I did, by myself. If you read part 2 of this story, you know I wasn't very fond of attending church by myself. But this time, things were different.

I was immediately welcomed. There are people from every age and every country attending services. They go out of their way to hold events to make the mega-church feel a bit more homey. Like a mother and daughter tea I attended with my mom, which I will never forget. 

At about the same time, I found a school to volunteer just down the road. Everything seemed to be aligning, and point towards Norcross, Georgia. I was sure I had found my home, and was ready to make my life there. God, however, had other plans. 

Come back tomorrow for part 6!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend links

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By the time you read this, I'll be officially on vacation. Can I get a woohoo???

That would be my hubby, my cousins and I being absolutely silly at a Cirque Du Soleil show. I promise it will make some sense once I tell ya what I am doing during the holidays, but that will be another day!

Resourceful Mommy was blessed enough to be invited to some events for the opening of the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Resort. She shared some pictures here and here. 

(in)courage shared a beautiful story that brought tears to my eyes. 

Desiring God talked about when we don't want to wait. Ahem. That might apply to me. JUst a tad. 

Mindy over @ My Life As... shared her top ten Christmas songs. Y'all, I am so in love with Christmas music, that I probably wouldn't be able to pick ten. Although this might be my all time favorite:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Discovering the first love

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This is part 4 of my spiritual journey. Start reading here. 

When my brother left for Brazil, I was welcomed in by the church group. They'd invite me for dinner. They helped me move. They called often. They made me feel part of their group.

I had to go back to Savannah but they kept pursuing me. Praying for me. And I just felt the love. I began reading the Bible and listening (and taking notes!) during the church service. On Thanksgiving, they went out of their way to welcome me. And while we prayed, I heard God for the second time.

You asked for a family. This is it. 

I immediately broke down. My parents had just been through a painful divorce, and although I never said it out loud, all I wanted was a family. 

On December I officially said out loud that I recognized Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I went to a retreat that changed my life. And then I got baptized on February 5th, 2006. 

I had daily access to the pastor and his wife, my friends were the ones managing the sound system and the collections. There were (maybe) around 30 of us. I was able to truly enjoy the definition of fellowship. It was by no means perfect, but it felt like a family, which was exactly what I needed.

Come back on Monday for part 5!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meeting Christ

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This is part 3 of my spiritual journey. Start reading here

My brother invited me to his church, but I wasn't very interested. I was way too judgmental, that is the truth. Then one day, Robin casually mentioned he would be baptized in the last Sunday he was in the States.

Say what? I couldn't believe it. He had been baptized as a baby, and that just sounded.... rude. He explained to me the differences in babies being baptized for cleansing of the 'original sin', and someone being baptized in Christ. It sounded important enough for me to attend,  because I was the only family he had in Atlanta, and I felt I just had to support him.

Brotherly love. 

The church was in a business center, which seemed odd to me. The amount of people there? A (very) small one. The music was dynamic and the service was radically different that I had ever seen. Everyone seemed way too young, including the pastor. I wasn't interested nor impressed.

At the end of the service they had the baptisms. I remember general nice things being said about my brother, and tearing up with his speech about his path to Christ. And then it happened.

Now, before I tell you what happened, I know it sounds controversial. I know some people don't believe it. But I'll tell you anyway.

I heard God speak. For the first time, ever, I felt in my heart that God was telling me something very specific, and that went against my plans for my own life:

You are next. 

 Come back tomorrow for part 4. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


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This is part 2 of my spiritual journey. Check part 1 here.

Even though I did not have the most solid religious foundation, I was always very interested. I read books like Theo's Voyage to get a broader glimpse. I remember sporadically attending church with my ant and uncle and loving it. My grandma taught me how to pray at night and I would always recite it:

Gentle Jesus
Meek and mild
Look upon a little child
God bless mommy, and daddy
and (then I would add a list of everyone I could think of)

When I went to grad school, as I looked for volunteering opportunities, I stumbled upon an ESL program at a local church. I felt prompted to find out a bit more, signed up as a co-teacher for a class and started attending services on Sundays as well. 

I liked the church, the ESL staff, the students, the service, everything. I was all....nice. But after a whole term there, the feeling stayed the same. I did not feel closer to God. Not one person ever came to talk to me before or after services. I didn't feel a part of it. Maybe it was because I was under 75 years old, which placed me in a very low demographic, but after a while, you kind of get fed up. At least I did. I wanted more.

My brother used to attend an evangelical Brazilian church in Roswell. One day, he asked me if he could come with me to my church. I was just so happy not to sit by myself for once. He was quiet the whole time, and when we left, I asked him how he liked it.

I didn't feel God's presence was all he said. I knew he was right.

Check back tomorrow for Part 3.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The beginning of a journey

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I share quite a lot about my current walk with Christ, but I noticed I haven't shared much about how I got to where I am. This week, I'd like to take you down that road. 

I was raised in a home with no defined religion. There were eventual mentions of God, but never an ' explanation'. The way my parents saw it, we should each choose what to believe, and we should all accept what people decide.

Living in Brazil can be a bit weird when it comes to beliefs. Brazil is technically a Catholic country, so we don't work during our patron saint days and have nationwide parties for some other saint folks. The largest church outside of the Vatican is here. We name cities after those people. It's a big part of the culture.

And yet, it's a mix with everything else. Some people call themselves Catholic but check their star sign. Some join African traditions. It's all a big mess. I don't say that in a judgmental way, it was just all odd for me.

On top of that, I attended Catholic school. Not because I am catholic (because I never was), but because it is a good school. It is also a very politically correct school, if there is such a thing for religious schools. I was never forced to read, learn or accept anything. I left after 13 years with a very limited image of Christ and a fuzzy look at the Bible. I had teachers in high-school who were clearly anti-Christians. My whole Catholic school experience really left me thinking they tend to do a disservice to Christianity. 

It all left me quite confused...

Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sherwood Pictures

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A couple of weeks ago I was made aware of a wonderful film industry company: Sherwood Pictures. It spawned out of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, as a dream shared between the pastor and the media minister. 

First of all, let me say my idea of Christian videos was limited to some really sappy, poorly produced Bible stories from the 70s. When we were at a friend's house and the men got back from the video rental with a Christian film, I figured I was in for a bo-ring night.

Corageous changed my view. It's a story about policemen and their legacy as Christian dads, and by scene one we knew they meant business. Check it out:

This weekend my husband got home with a three-pack from Sherwood Pictures: Fireproof, Flywheel and Facing the Giants. We chose to watch the football action flick, and were not let down. Check out one of its poignant scenes:

Next time you have a movie night, I strongly suggest watching these movies. Their stories are beautiful, the message is based solidly on the Word of God, and the production is at an amazing professional level. Plus, for any Georgia lover, the thick accents and gorgeous landscape adds a comfort known to only those who call the peach state home. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Weekend links

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This weekend I have my husband's family coming over to our house, and I cannot wait to offer some hospitality to them all. What are your plans?

Marriage has been on my mind for quite a while. This week Joshua M. Hood posted on love, and I beg anyone who is about to get married or get divorced to read it. 

After marriage comes baby in a baby carriage, or so they say. Check out this post by Natalia @ Uncommonplace. Amen, sister!

Through a beautiful post over @ Amanda Medlin I found out about HelloMornings. How awesome does this sound? I'll have to check back later, when there is more info up on their website!

Through Alesha's blog I found Covered in Grace, and the first post I read was a glimpse of how much I loved this addition to my blog roll.

Eat Yourself Skinny wrote such an inspirational post about starting today. It made me want to break out the pots and pans and start on a path to become a Masterchef. 

Have a great weekend y'all!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Date night!

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Andre and I have had some attempts of instituting a date night, but they usually ran aground after a couple of weeks. We'd have work, or a family member would invite us for dinner, or we would be plain tired. 

After our retreat, we tried to set a date night once again, and yesterday was the first one! He left it up to me, and I took him to a juicy burguer, which he loves.

Before deciding where to go, I did my homework. I was quite impressed that this seems to be a hot topic online, specially the cheap date ideas. Score! Here are my favorites:

Play putt-putt golf ♥ Cook together ♥ Walk the doggies ♥ Do a DYI project together ♥ Volunteer ♥ Have a board game night ♥ Watch Disney ' Behind the Park' Dvds ♥ Garden ♥ Find a new restaurant ♥ Drive around ♥ Visit an art gallery ♥

What about you, do you have a good idea for an inexpensive date night?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When your heart's desires seem different than your spouse's

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For a while now, God has been moving in my life and changing my heart. Changing the desire of a bigger house to the desire of better hospitality. Changing the need for more money to the need of more dependence on Him. Changing my career plans into missionary plans.

Every time I read His word, listen to worship songs, attend a church service, read a book  or talk to people, it seems He adds a bit more of His will into my heart. 

And yet, when I looked at my husband and when I talked to him, I didn't get that feeling. He seemed comfortable. Secure. Driven. Just not in the same direction that I was heading to. Which broke my heart into a million pieces.

I've been praying a lot about this, and this weekend we had some time to discuss hot topics between husband and wife at our couple's retreat. At the end, we were supposed to bring any issues we did not feel comfortable bringing up. After a long discussion and lots of breakthroughs in different areas of our marriage, Andre told me there was nothing he needed to bring up that he hadn't before.


So, afraid and teary eyed, I began telling him. I firmed my gaze at the laze and talked slowly about how I crave for more. How I am ready for a deeper commitment. How I was made to worship Jesus and how I want to live my life for Him. How I feel like I am wasting my time each day I spend focused on something else. And how I cannot live hiding this from him anymore, putting my husband's comfort above God's calling.

When I was done talking, there was silence, and I expected the worst. So I looked at him bracing myself, only to find him in tears. 

It turns out God has been changing his heart as well (of course he has!) and Andre feels the same way. But he was too scared I wouldn't accept this. That I would think he was crazy. Sound familiar?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God
1 Corinthians 1:18

So if there is anything that God is pressing upon your heart, I beg you to talk about it with your spouse. God will never have distinct and opposing plans for husband and wife. Thinking that only delays God's plans for His glory.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Even greater

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I mentioned I went on a church couples' retreat, and indeed I learned soo much, I'll have to break it down into a couple of posts. I am still digesting things, so today I leave you with a video. This was sent to me by the pastor who baptized me seven years ago, and sums up what I took from the retreat this weekend:

Have a great day. God bless you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pinteresting for Christmas

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December is here, which is a legit excuse to start talking about Christmas! Yay!

Yeah, I know it's not the real date of Jesus' birth, Santa is the poster boy for Coca-cola, blah, blah, blah. But no one can argue that things look, smell and taste lovely, people seem to get a bit nicer, and most people who don't bother with God tend to take a moment, even if it is just to watch their kids Christmas School Play. So all in all, I think it is a wonderful time of the year indeed!

So today, I'd like to share with you some Christmas inspiration, as I already have most of my stuff up for display we all will start decorating our homes soon (ahem). For more inspiration, visit my I wish it was Christmas Pinterest Board. Have fun!

Omiyage Blogs shared some brown paper 
packages inspiration. I found them to be so lovely!

Just Crafty Enough shared a tutorial on Felt Gift card holders. 
Christmas tree ornaments, I call them! 
I ain't making something this pretty to give away!

Want your house smelling scrumptious? Check out Make it Do's recipe!

How adorable is this tradition? 

Pinterest also has a special 30 Days of Pinspiration, 
with guest celebrity pinners.

 How about you, do you have any cute stuff for Christmas inspiration?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend links

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Yay for weekends!

This weekend promises to be quite special. My husband and I are away in our church's couple's retreat. I'll be posting about it next week, as I am sure I'll soak up a lot!

Here are this week's suggestions:

It's been clear that I am currently devouring everything from Desiring God. I was overjoyed to see a special 2012 advent calendar being released, as always, for free!

Katie Brown posted on (in)courage about saying Yes. This was truly inspiring for me. I've been thinking and praying about New Year's resolutions (yes, already!) and this struck a chord!

Lysa TerKeurst wrote not one, but two posts I could relate to. Both of these are things God has been dealing with on my life: this one and this one.

On a lighter note, if I ever get way ambitious, I should make these. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? I'll just buy them at the grocery store.

Lots of love!