All American Girl
Who was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers? When was the Constitution signed? What war was Eisenhower in before becoming president? Seriously? I didn’t know many of the answers, but she did. Gigi answered every question right on her naturalization test, and now my dear friend is officially a U.S. citizen! But Gigi’s path to becoming an American has not been easy.
Born on November 20, 1981, Gigi grew up on a rural family farm in Sobralia, a small town in the southeast region of Brazil. Always a smile on her face, Gigi didn’t understand their dire circumstances despite living in a tiny home with no electricity and holes in the ceiling that revealed the stars at night. Her grandmothers and aunt made clothing from fabric scraps, and their garden – or whatever they could barter at the weekly market – provided their meals. Health care was a luxury only for the rich, which had a permanent consequence for Gigi as she was born breech. During birth, Gigi was pulled out by her limbs, resulting in a fractured shoulder and nerve damage that, over time, caused stunted growth in Gigi’s right arm. Her family had no money to seek medical treatment, so her grandmothers prayed for God’s healing touch.
Miraculously, one day Gigi woke up and her right arm was the same size as the left – without any explanation! Her arm had been restored, but her shoulder would remain permanently dislocated. Through the healing of her arm, Gigi experienced God’s miracles first hand and was surrounded by prayer warriors like her grandmothers who helped build Gigi’s strong Christian foundation.
In 1994, Gigi departed Brazil for a better life in America during the recession of the 1990’s, which left many poor families – like Gigi’s – struggling to survive. Her family settled in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, when Gigi was 13 years old. The following year, her sister, Thalyta, was born but also had health challenges – including frequent seizures. Later diagnosed with DiGeorge syndrome, Thalyta required round-the-clock care, so Gigi quit school at age 15 (her high school freshman year) to help support her family. She cleaned homes, worked at McDonald’s, and took on various hourly positions until her big break came as a receptionist at a local hotel. Soon after starting, Gigi was promoted to front desk manager and later to manager on duty – all before her 20th birthday! Gigi was grateful for the work to provide for her family, but she was never able to return to school.
While in her teens, Gigi also got married and later had two children – Max and Luanna. Florida became their new home to be relocated closer to her husband’s parents for support. After nine years of marriage, Gigi divorced and began a new chapter of her life with Max and Luanna.
Gigi did what she could to support her young children and continued her work in kitchen and countertop sales. She had an eye for design and at work met the apple of her eye and love of her life, Andy. Everything changed for the better when Gigi met Andy, and they began to build their new life together and were later married. At the time, they didn’t have resources for a formal ceremony/reception, but in February 2020 they had a special celebration – complete with official wedding photos.
Just when life seemed to turn the corner for Gigi, Covid hit. Andy became paralyzed in fear with his existing heart condition and diabetes, concerned that the disease would take him out. That fear became a reality on April 19, 2020, when Andy passed away in Gigi’s arms – not from Covid but a heart attack. Through her despair and grief, Gigi forged on to take over their business, Brazilian Best Tile. Today she continues to lead the company as the sole owner, with her children, Max and Luanna, as well as her parents who are now in Florida working for the family business.
Gigi’s lifelong dream was to become a U.S. citizen, and now it has come true. Although she is now an American, Gigi knows her true citizenship lies in heaven. I guess that makes her a dual citizen!
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:20-21 NIV)