Wisdom in Silence

This past week someone asked me to consider the main quality of a good boss and those of a good employee.  It was easy to immediately respond the first question.  In my opinion, to be in a position of leadership one needs to communicate well.  Good communication enables things to run a lot smoother in the work environment.  No doubt, I believe it should be a two-way street, but the words of an employee should be minimum.  Quite frankly, I have learned that the more I silent the better.  The Bible says in Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Thinking of someone who inspires me about not talking unnecessarily and being an excellent employee the first person who comes to mind is my baby sister.  I know I may sound cocky when mentioning my siblings but I am really blessed for having such wonderful people in my family.  What can I say?  Good roots bring forth good fruits.  I praise God for my parents!  My dad was naturally a quiet man.  He was a man of just a few words.  My mom, on the other hand, liked to talk quite a lot.  But that doesn’t mean she didn’t teach me about the matter.  And on her last conscious days on this earth she taught me the greatest lesson on the subject. She could talk but she chose not to and her silence spoke more than I can describe.  “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly” (Proverbs 12:23).

Beatriz Valadão is my younger sister.  She is a wife, a mom, and a first time granny.  Through the years I have learned a lot from her.  She stirs in me the desire to be a better person in so many ways.  Today I want to say a few things I learned from her as an employee.  I had the privilege of working with her at the Dallas Post Office.  We were RCA (Rural Carrier Associate), or substitutes to the regular carriers.  When I joined the post office Beatriz was already there.  They call her Bee, but my siblings and I call her Bê since we were little.  I am so thankful for all she did and still does for me.  At the post office, she blessed me with so many tips and helping hands on those desperate first days on the job.  I observed her every time I had a chance and I always ran to her asking for instructions and guidance.  She’s smart in figuring out the best way of doing things in an effective and timely manner.  Bee seemed so confident and always encouraged me even on my lowest moments.

As a substitute, Bee was envied by all regular carriers.  They knew whatever route she worked on it would be an easy one the next day.  She’s not only a hard worker but also a servant of the Lord who blesses all those around her.  She is a helper, a giver, and an example.  Proverbs 31:20 describes her constant attitude “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  Walking the extra mile is something she does continuously.  It’s a part of who she is.  Recently, Bee was promoted to regular carrier.  No doubt, one of the best regulars the post office will ever have.  She’s diligent, reliable, and a pleasant person to work with.   I’m still learning from her and trying to achieve her work ethics.  But the biggest lesson for me has been to guard my lips.

The way she reacts to bad comments about fellow workers is an example to be imitated.  She is silent.  She changes the subject and breaks a chain that can destroy others.  Everyday Beatriz puts to practice what is written in Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”, and in Ecclesiastes 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”.  When she opens her mouth it sure serves the purpose of causing good to others.

Several verses in the Bible teach about how much we should restrain our words.  One text in particular, James 3:2-6, gives three good analogies, For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell”.  No wonder God created us with a pair of eyes and a pair of ears, but only one tongue.

I’m progressing in this area of my life.  I don’t want to be considered a fool because of my words.  Ecclesiastes 10:14 says, “A fool multiplies words”, and Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion”.  I want wisdom coming out of my mouth and my sister Beatriz has set biblical standards I can follow.

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23).

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

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Birth Pains

Almost 26 years ago I was on my way to Worcester, MA to give birth to my daughter.  I remember as if it were yesterday when I felt the first contraction.  I got up around 3:00 am feeling a little tiny cramp.  Since I never had cramps before, I remember thinking ‘how weak these women are complaining about the pain of giving birth, this is so tolerable’.  Little did I know what I was going to experience later.  The only pain worse than that was an infected tooth that required a root canal treatment.  I think I literally left my fingers mark on the metal armrest at the dentist’s office chair.  As I tried to squeeze my pain away my mind was elevating Vívian, my 5 year old daughter at the time, into the throne of God in supplication.  I prayed for her to have very strong teeth.  I know the Lord answered my prayer because to this day she never had any cavity; praises be to Him!

Her dad was still sleeping.  My due date was on the 17th but I really wanted her to come that Sunday.  I wanted to be strong enough to attend a special event in church on the following weekend.  During the pregnancy I heard that walking would help with delivery.  So I was determined to put it to the test.  We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment, but that didn’t prevent me from walking around the dinner table like a bug circulating a lamp.  That was the best space available.  Contractions kept increasing in strength, causing me lots of pain, real pain.  But not only that, they started to come within shorter and shorter time apart.  By now, I was considering every woman to be a hero and despising every man on the face of the earth for not having to go through birth pains.

Close to 6:00 am I made sure my sleeping husband was up and calling the doctor, who told me to go the hospital.  After the long drive with me in the passenger seat, contorting like an earth warm on hot cement, we arrived and I was immediately admitted.  My daughter was eager to leave the safety of my womb and explore this world.   And so she was born, a tiny little girl who would change my life forever.  She came to bring me the biggest joy, to make me feel the deepest love, and to put a weight of concerns on my soul.  I became a mother…

Today, reflecting back on the birth pains I remembered the Bible verse from Mark 13:8 where we read about the end times.  Through my life I’ve heard of so many catastrophes.  They have been increasing in quantity, and in strength.  As an added tragedy, there hasn’t been much time between them.  Actually, so many are happening at the same time that the news haven’t been able to keep up broadcasting it all.  As I am writing this post, hurricane Irma just passed leaving so much devastation, right after hurricane Harvey.  This later one also left a huge trail of destruction on its path; and hurricane Jose and Katia are already on the way.  At the same time, not so much broadcasted on the news, the West of the United States has undergone wildfires bigger than predicted.  Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and California have suffered damages from the dried-out lands.  What a contrast!  Some states under water and others under fire!  Not to mention North Korea’s threat to the US after UN attempts to halt their weapons programs.

Countries are at war for power, domination and survival.  There is a continuous drug cartel war in Mexico with despicable violence.  If it wasn’t enough, an 8.1 earthquake just intensified their daily life struggles to the extremities.  In the Congo ethnic hatred groups have caused deaths, villages wiped out, and more than 3.8 million out from their homes.  Myanmar is undergoing crimes against humanity in an attempt to an “ethnic cleansing”.   These are only a few of the latest reports of things happening around the world.  We are living difficult times.

There is a prediction that the world is coming to an end on September 23rd. This is based on the stars alignment on that day and Revelation 12:1-2, where it is written, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth”.  In several articles we read that these verses are referring to the constellation Virgo (woman) over the moon (moon at Virgo’s feet) under 12 stars (9 stars of the constellation Leo plus the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars above her head), and Jupiter (a son) exiting the center of Virgo (birth).

I’m not entirely accepting this prediction as there are other articles debating it, but I’m sure we are living the last days.  In Joel 1:15 and 2:1 we read that the day of the Lord is near, bringing destruction, and we should tremble.  What are we supposed to do then?  Where to go, or where to hide in these perilous days?  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).  Indeed, there is a place to hide where we can feel secured.

The other day someone close to me said that a time is coming when only faith will see us through.  Nothing else can give us assurance.  Those who seek the Lord for help trusting on His Word will truly find rest for their soul.  Other verses in Joel 2:12-13 read, “Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

I’m not sure what you are facing these days.  Maybe you have been affected in some way by one of these dreadful natural disasters or other misfortunes, or maybe you are living what seems to be a good life without a care in this world.  Reality is that whatever your circumstances are they don’t change what we all have in common – a temporary body.  We don’t know when our last day on this earth will be.  We need to be ready for it.  The only inevitability we all possess is a death sentence that we inherited at birth.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 “…it is appointed to men to die once, but after this the judgment”.

Isn’t it better to be prepared?

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Pearls

I love pearls! To me they represent femininity.  Pearl earrings are my favorites.  I wear them very often.  I think they can transform the appearance of a woman quite a bit.  On bad hair days, when a baseball cap seems to be the solution, those pearls work like a charm. They give me a more soft or ladylike appearance. But pearls are not soft or fragile at all, they are consequence of adversity.

A pearl is formed when an irritant, like a parasite, enters the shell of the mollusk.  Unable to expel the irritant the mollusk defends itself by depositing layers after layers of nacre around it.  There are natural pearls and cultured pearls. Natural pearls have a very thick layer of nacre and take years to be formed after a parasite enters the shell.  On the other hand, some pearls have the interference of man to speed up its formation.  A bead or mantle tissue is inserted into the mollusk shell; the mollusk will react the same way by depositing the nacre substance around the intruder to form what we know as a cultured pearl.  Although they differ on their interior the process is the same.  The mollusk refuses to give in to the irritant and protects itself by transforming something ugly and undesirable into something beautiful.

I have encountered a number of “pearls” through the years.  They are women who had suffered many things in life but had overcome in a great way.  They had faced hardships imposed on them by co-workers, by family members, by society, or simply by uncontrollable circumstances.  But these women didn’t succumb to the pressures; they rose above the ugliness of the situation and came out stronger than before.  These pearls are worriers, winners, women of faith and courage, women who are leaving a legacy for others to follow.  They are role models!

Today I want to honor one of these pearls, my eldest sister.  Growing up we were not so close, maybe because she matured faster than I did even though we are not so far apart in age.  I remember her taking care of my younger siblings and me.  At the time, as a child, I didn’t enjoy the aspect of her bossing me around to help her with chores around the house, which my mom made sure we kept sparkling all the time. I also didn’t enjoy when she wanted to make sure my hair was shiny and soft by applying milk with lime juice to remove chlorine after a day at the pool. Less yet I enjoyed when she wanted my nails done; she made me her “guinea pig”.  But I certainly enjoyed all the good food she prepared from an early age.  She would make delicious dishes for us to savor as we watched movies in “Sessão da Tarde,” an afternoon TV show as I was growing up.  Good memories from the past!…

Now it’s a different thing.  We grew up.  We parted houses forming our own families. Even though our schedule doesn’t allow us to see each other very often we are very close.  We are twice sisters – by the bloodline of our parents and by the bloodline of our Savior Jesus Christ.

She’s someone I can look up to.  I’ve seen her pass though some dark valleys with her eyes closed, many times drowned in tears.  I’ve seen her climb mountains on her knees, and yell alone in the silence.  She always prays her way through any hurdles, out of any burden, and up into the throne of God!  She doesn’t contemplate defeat; she doesn’t allow her lips to say the lies her enemy tries to poke into her head. She lives by the Word – the Living Word of God!  She only accepts what is written.  She knows who she is, whom she serves, and where she is going.  With each new trial I’ve seen her grow stronger.  Her faith is unshakable!

My first sister is Kendali.  She’s a small-framed woman with the spirit of a giant, an angel in disguise.  Uncountable times she has rescued me, emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically.  She’s a mother admired and duly honored by her kids.  She’s a blessing beyond measure to all who know her.  She’s truly an example to follow, a role model.  She’s a pearl indeed!

Photography – echoes of a history

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language-idiom first used in 1911 that continues to convey a great truth in present time.  We know a picture will engrave things onto the brain much deeper than words alone.   Photographs, in lay terms, or by the popular name, are called pictures.   But photographs are a lot more than just still images.  They are the art of precision, illumination, angle, setting, and creativity, combined and connected to the one handling the camera.

Photograph brings people and events a little closer to one’s heart when distance and circumstances hinder their presence together.  It stirs up memories and trigger emotions.  Photograph preserves what time strives to fade away, keeping the veracity of passed endeavours.   It keeps the past alive. It reveals the unspoken, the obscured, and the aura, whispering secrets and silencing lying lips.  It seals a covenant, a verdict; it registers “the” time.  Photograph echoes moments of a history.

Good photographers not only possess the good gear and talent, but the dexterity of a professional.  There are professionals and there are PROFESSIONALS.  I can say without restrictions that Studio 22 has professionals with capital letters.  I salute Studio 22 for its success but I know that behind its name there is the integrity of Kássio Silva as a photographer, a businessperson, and an individual in all areas of his life.  Wedding photography is his expertise.  He writes love poetry in the form of images.  Kássio has received many accomplishments on wedding photography, but his work extends far and beyond.  He also does lifestyle photography.  He’s not only attentive to every move and detail at the event or occasion he’s photographing, but also, when necessary, he’s a coach to the ones in front of the lens, achieving remarkable results.  His photographs speak the song of the soul being photographed.

I have the pleasure and the honor of knowing Kássio and share the same family tree.  I’m a proud sister of this man who has brightened our eyes with phenomenal images of his work.   I proudly encourage you to see for yourself and enjoy his art of wedding photography.  Then, follow Studio 22 on Instagram to be continuously mesmerised and inspired by the love stories recorded through Kássio’s camera lens.

 

No Experience. No Problem.

 

“There is deer season and there is waiting for deer season.”

In my house we are hunters. We keep the above saying to the letter.  From October to March our weeks are all about preparation for the weekends. That is when we drive four hours every Friday to the Hunting Camp just to be in the woods waiting for the perfect buck. We hunt Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning.  This is the best time for us to bond as a family – no electronics, and we all enjoy everything that is involved in hunting.

In the woods, each of us has a spot to be, either a tree stand or a box blind. First time Vivian went with us, she reassured my husband she could stay by herself.  Reluctantly, he agreed after reminding her of several rules and gave her a .243 riffle, which is the weakest one we have.  He left her in my box blind because it is elevated from the ground about 5 steps, a little safer, and that was the place we saw the most number of deer in the motion camera.

We usually arrive at our spot in the woods around 5:30 am when it is still pitch black, having only the path underneath our feet to guide us.  We don’t use flashlights.  We stay there until around 11:30 am when we go back for lunch and return in the afternoon.  I wish we could stay much longer but for us girls there is no bathroom break.  No fun in that!

On this particular day, my husband and I didn’t see a thing.  Not even a skirl entertained us.  All was dead calm.  Then, around 10:15 we heard a shot from the direction Vivian was sitting.  Immediately my husband called her on the radio in a very low tone to avoid noises.

“Was it you?”

“Yes, I killed a buck,” she answered still with a trembling voice.

“Do you see it?”

“No, he jumped into the woods.”

“Stay put till I get there.  Do not get down,” he said emphatically.  There are many hogs in the area and they attack.  Wagner was being a protective dad.

“Ok.”

I was excited for her and so proud.  First time ever and she kills a buck? Or so we thought.

Time to leave.  Wagner came from down the stream where he has his stand in a tree, met me up the path and we both went to see Vivian.  From a distance she saw us through the box opening and came down excited to tell us how it happened, pointing to the spot where the buck was when she fired.

No blood.  No pattern to follow.  We looked, and searched, and nothing.

Frustration grew stronger as my husband, a veteran hunter, kept saying she probably missed the shot.  After all, it was her first time and the riffle was not that strong for such a distance.  She insisted.  We broad the search area to no avail.  No signs of any killing.

We tried to comfort her for the disappointment.  In private, she would say to me that she had shot in the right spot, and she was absolutely sure that the buck was there somewhere.  She always talks to me more than with dad – a closer bond, I guess.  What could we do?  Maybe the shot just scratched him and he fled…

One week went by.  We, the girls, had an event to attend so Wagner went by himself to the camp.  He decided to try his luck at my box.  As soon as the sun started to push down the cold fog and warm the woods a little, he felt a stench coming from where Vivian said the buck was.  He went to check and sure enough there he was, at least what the coyotes left of it.  He called us.

“You’re not going to believe it, Vivian really killed a buck.  An eight-point buck.”  He said like he was so regretful for not finding it the week before.

And he continued,

“It was about ten steps further than where we stopped looking.  The coyotes ate most of it but I’ll take the head for her to see.”

“Imagine that, she was right all along,” I responded with a grin on my face.

We boiled the head with borax to clean it.  The skull had been crushed but the antlers were fine.  It’s hanging on our wall as Vivian’s proud reminder to all of us that she had the right shot just as she had said.  For us it is a reminder that we should not doubt the inexperienced.  With patience, attention, and determination one can accomplish great things.

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Love Conquers

 

It was April 2008; I was home alone in the afternoon waiting for my daughter to come back from school.  Suddenly I heard my husband’s truck entering the driveway.  It was a little early for him to be home so I went to the door to meet him.  I had no idea what it could be but from that day forward my life would change considerably.

My husband has always been a lover of dogs.  Ever since we got married he mentioned, almost pleading, for us to have a dog.  I ran the thoughts of hair, pee, chewed up shoes, scratched doors, and the prison of not being able to travel without concerns, so my answer was a repeated “NO”, over and over again.  In an attempt to justify my negative answer I would explain we lived in an apartment; then, when we moved to a house, there was no fence; and I kept pushing the idea away.

In 1999 I lost the power of excuses.  We bought a house with an all fenced back yard and it even had a doghouse ready under the porch.  Therefore, I knew dog’s days were not far from us.

He told me to wait in the driveway as he went to his truck and secretly between his arms he placed this light beige, blue-eyed puppy on the ground.  I froze for a second, my heart was racing, and before I had time to ponder the situation the little one came running as fast as his tiny legs would carry him and rested right on my feet.  Needless to say I melted.  He stole my heart right there and then.  The ‘NO’ I have said so many times before vanished like a puff of air.  There was a huge unspoken ‘YES’ inside of me. This pit-lab had an adopted family from now on.

I took him into my arms and walked straight up the road to meet my daughter who was walking home from school. It was love at first sight and she named him Romeo. She took him with her everywhere. His fur felt like a teddy bear and still does to this day. When we take him to the park, people make comments about his fur and how gorgeous he is, and they ask to pet him.  His fur is just different and soft!

Romeo was like a newborn baby in the house. I got up at least twice during the night to check on him, to put him outside, and just to admire him. I was happy and my husband was even happier. He had a dog and surprisingly, I was ok with it. We decided he would rather stay in the cool of air conditioning, so he lived inside the house.

Everything was good, but then…

A friend found out that Wagner liked dogs and decided to give him another dog, a pure breed white lab.  She came to us at only six weeks old just couple months after Romeo’s arrival.  I got so angry with my husband and with his friend who never asked me my opinion on the subject.  I gave Wagner the silence treatment for quite a few days.  Silly me! Looking back, it was so senseless.  I grew out of this foolishness.  Praise God we mature.  Time and experiences take care of that.  Although I was playing tough, I was in love with this little cotton ball that fit cozily in my hands.  She had huge ears and when she ran it reminded us of Dumbo from Disney.  I named her Angel.  It really describes her inside and out.  Even after nine years she still has the puppy look as before. So cute!

Time passed… They grew older. We grew older. All is well.  Sometimes they still play cat and mouse and get angry at each other, but they are best friends. Romeo protects her like a little sister and Angel follows him like a leader. Love took over.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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