Monday, 27 February 2012


I have an image stuck in my head; it is beautiful, bittersweet, tragic, and touching. It is something friends of mine have lived through and something I hope to never experience. It is a picture of a young girl, cuddled and cradled in her parent's arms, breathing her last and passing from the embrace of her earthly parents to the everlasting arms of her heavenly Father.

Her name is Hope. She was only five years old when cancer took over her body and away from this present reality. I met her once as a bright-eyed one year old, and have kept up with her journey only through updates that her parents sent out through Facebook. For the past three years this family has battled cancer and conquered it; only for Hope to relapse in the last year with untreatable tumors.

I don't know why their story has had such an impact on me in the past few weeks. I have read their news as they have struggled through radiation and transfusions and tests and scans and hospital stays. I don't even really know Ali and Bec personally, I have only been on the edge, watching and praying as they have traveled this hard and impossible road.

They have really inspired me in the way they dealt with this horrible reality, sharing details and being so raw and honest about everything that occurred along the way. They shared about the privilege it was to journey alongside Hope in her short life time and I really got a sense that they know she is a child of God. For Christians there is no fear or mystery surrounding death.

As I have followed their journey it has changed the way I look at my own young children. I have cherished more moments with them, and have held them more tightly even as I understand that they are a gift from God, and he holds them in His hands with a stronger grasp and a deeper love than I can ever know.

My heart breaks as I picture this image in my mind, but there is a greater one still. That of Hope in the arms of her heavenly Father, free from pain and suffering, enveloped in the overwhelming love of the one who gave her life.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Inspiring Parents

Well, I think it's high time for a new blog post - considering we are already halfway though February and I haven't posted at all in 2012. Good thing I didn't make a New Year's resolution to blog more....

I'm not quite sure where the first half of January went. We had a little celebration for Lucas' 3rd birthday on the 3rd and he had a little party at school, but we were preparing for a big party later in the month when both sets of grandparents would be able to attend. The major highlight of January/February was my parent's three week visit. So I guess I spent the first few weeks of January trying to get our tiny apartment into a guest-worthy state. 

My parents arrived on Jan 17 and we had a great time together. Of course, one of the main reasons for their trip was to see the kids (in hindsight David and I should have taken more advantage of this and whisked ourselves away for a few days...)

Poppa reading to Lucas on the first night here. 
We enjoyed the first few days getting settled in and I recruited my parents to help with various projects in preparation for Lucas' third birthday party which was to be held on Saturday the 21st of January. In a last minute confusion we ended up having to switch the party to the 22nd and thankfully most people were still able to come and celebrate with us. It was nice for Lucas to be able to have both sets of grandparents there. Not sure how often that will happen!

We had pretty cool, grey and rainy weather the first week, but it didn't slow us down one bit!
Nana blowing bubbles on our balcony for Lucas and Elena. 

We took advantage of having two grandmas around and went with the kids to the Zoo in Sao Paulo. It was a great outing, but honestly the kids are still a little young to really appreciate it. Still we had a good time out and managed to avoid the rain.
The kids with both the grandmas. 
Lucas with Poppa. 

We also had a chance to spend some time away with Betty and Solano, Vovó, Grace and Andre, Danny, Aline and Sophia when we all went to Campos do Jordao for a weekend. We all stayed in a big house that is provided by Solano's University - as an employee retreat center. It was cool enough in this Swiss Colony town that we had the fire going in the fireplace and drank lots of hot chocolate, tea and coffee and cherished the fellowship together as family in Christ. Lots of stories were shared, songs sung and prayers prayed over our two families. And of course many memories made!
Solano brought his guitar and Lucas enjoyed playing with Poppa. 

Armed with a box of books to keep Elena happy. 

It has been somewhat of a Portela tradition to go out for a Fondue dinner when we stay at Campos do Jordao and this time was no exception. We ate a a place called Krocodillos, savoring the cheese, meat and (of course) chocolate fondue in between chasing the three kids (Lucas, Elena and cousin Sophia) around outside so they wouldn't go stir-crazy.
Elena with Nana and Poppa outside the restaurant.
Not sure what Crocodiles have to do with Fondue,
but it was GOOD!

After spending the weekend with the whole family we all returned to our respective homes on Sunday afternoon. We headed back to Mogi for only a day to repack for the beach. I had scored a super deal on Groupon and Lucas and Elena experienced their first beach trip ever with Nana and Poppa. While the place we stayed at was quite far from the beach, it had a playground, swimming pool and (David's favorite part) hammocks hung on each room's balcony. We had three nights and four days at the beach and the kids didn't get burnt at all. Can't say that about Poppa and Daddy though!
Nana showing Elena the ocean for the first time. 
Poppa swimming with Lucas at the pool.
We decided it's definitely best to have a ratio of 4 adults to 2 kids when traveling. It's so much easier and no one gets tired out. Not quite sure how my parents did it with the opposite ratio! 

Once we returned from the beach we had a few last days at home. In between our travels my parents helped a lot with the usual day to day activities that come with a house of toddlers; potty training Lucas, changing diapers, trips down to the playground, walks outside, dropping off/picking up Lucas from school, and the general up-keep. My dad helped us finish a lot of projects that we had on the back-burner.

Mom and I enjoyed a lot of coffee and chats together.
Here we are enjoying a sunny morning on our balcony.
The only way to keep Lucas occupied at a table - CARS! 
Lucas with Poppa at a Traditional Brazilian Cuisine restaurant.
Look how much food is on that table!
And check out Elena's cute expression. 

Now to the inspiring part. I learned so much from my parents on this short trip. The way that they took the initiative to help out with the kids, the dishes, the laundry, the projects - all with an attitude of gratefulness of just being able to be here. My dad jumped right into learning Portuguese, always carrying around his little book to write phrases in and taking every opportunity to practice. It was great having them here because I felt like my Portuguese was pretty good compared to them! Still it was a good reminder from my dad to keep pressing on and learning new things because even though I know and understand quite a lot of Portuguese I am far from fluent and it will take work to get there. And both of them inspired me to take more time reading and studying my bible. Each day they made it a priority to have times to read and study (my dad even reads the Bible in Bengali). What an encouragement and blessing they were to our little family. We are so thankful that they could be here and for the continuing impact they have on our family, and for the memories they could make with their grandkids. Now little Elena sees photos of Nana and Poppa and can recognize them and call them by name.

And now life returns to it's regular routine....

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