Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tico Tuesday, November 28th

The past week was as amazing as it was intense: 2 Thanksgiving celebrations (including one planned, led, and mostly cooked for by me), the annual volunteer party, teaching in the 201 CLASS again, a special activity with the counseling ministry, a little birthday party for me, church, all of Sunday afternoon at church for the family weekend, hanging out with a friend in San José, talking with my parents and one of my brothers, etc. It was exhausting and wonderful.
It was a joy to share Thanksgiving with most of my coworkers and the family who I've become very close friends with this year. Thanksgiving is right up there with Christmas and Easter for me, and it always means a lot for me to share with people here. At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims thanked God for the Wampanoags and the kindness and support they provided to help the Pilgrims adjust to life in the New World. And every Thanksgiving here, I seize the opportunity to thank people who have shown kindness and support to me and helped me as I live in a different world and culture. I share the history of Thanksgiving and how it has grown to mean more to me as I live in a foreign land, and I can't make it through without getting choked up. God has been so good to me! We had a wonderful time of celebrating and giving thanks together. It was really special. And I think most amazing of all is that I've spent Thanksgiving with a different group of people every year! A couple people have repeated here and there, but I am blown away to think God has put so many special people in my life over the past 8 years! My heart overflows with thanks.
And of course, there are no words to express my thankfulness for you. Thank you for all you do to partner with me and support me as I serve here. I couldn't do it without you! Thank you!
May we live giving thanks each day,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tico Tuesday, November 21st

Tuesday greetings to you! Last Tuesday I wasn't able to write to you because my eyes had been dilated and everything was blurry. It was my first time seeing an eye doctor here in Costa Rica and he insisted on dilating my eyes. Last week I had a couple of other appointments as well: my orthopedist said I never had to see him about my knee again! Thanks and praise be to God!
We made a Thankfulness Tree at the retreat! (and now the cafeteria has a nice floor & ceiling!)
This past Saturday we had our last small group retreat of the year. It was a fun day of celebration, thanksgiving, growing, and sharing together. Turnout wasn't as great as I hoped, but I know a lot of people are still catching on to the idea that small groups are about being healthy disciples together and not just to do a 6 week study together. The good news is, a lot of my new facilitators came, so they are getting the right DNA/understanding from the get go. I think my biggest challenge right now is raising up a group of community leaders, people who are willing and able to accompany and support other facilitators. I can't oversee them all. It's too much work! So, please be praying with me for that. And please pray for wisdom as my team and I meet next week to evaluate this retreat and year and work on our planning for next year. You can pray for the pastoral team as we meet to evaluate and plan in the coming weeks as well.
Thank you so much for your continued prayers, encouragement, and support. I love to hear from you guys! I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving and enjoy giving thanks with and for people dear to you. I can't express how thankful I am for each of you!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tico Tuesday, November 7th

And now back to your regularly scheduled Tico Tuesdays...
It's so good to be home! This is a sentiment I have often expressed in the past week. I loved my time in the States: it was a great blessing to me spiritually, emotionally, relationally, psychologically, etc. I even had a couple people buy shredded wheat (not the frosted stuff) just so I could have it for breakfast while I stayed with them! It was a wonderful trip!
But, it's really good to be back in Costa Rica: To be back in my apartment that is now clean and decked out in fall/Thanksgiving decor, to be back at church worshiping with my brothers and sisters here, to be back at work and focus on small groups again, to be with my coworkers again and see my friends and start catching up with them, to have more of a routine again, and have more control over my diet again. It's nice to say hi to my neighbors and not need the GPS pretty much every time I get in the car. And it's great to share about my trip with those who want to hear about it and tell them what God has been teaching me.
My return from this trip has been drastically different from the one from my trip in July. In addition to what I'm learning about God's love, I'm also learning about vulnerability, and I'm experiencing more freedom to be me. I think I've suppressed some of my silliness in recent years in the name of "cultural adaptation," and often allowed work to consume too much of life. So, I'm working on having more fun and enjoying the life and personality God has given me more fully. It includes a lot more dancing!
Thank you so much for continuing to walk with me on this journey. May God bless you and continue to grow your love for him each day! And please keep our new series "40 Days in the Word" and the new small group I'm opening for young adults in your prayers!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tico Tuesday, October 17th

Fun with my cousins in Charleston, SC
Hello from Charlotte, NC! I've had a spectacular time in the Carolinas over the past couple weeks. As I mentioned in my Chronicle, the PTM conference that I went to was excellent and opened my eyes to the world of member care. Being there was also incredibly refreshing and good for my soul: I was reminded of God's love and how he pursues, delights, and sees us. He desires a relationship with us more than anything else. Pleasing him and becoming like Jesus are the fruit of this relationship and I have to be careful to not confuse the fruit with the root!
The last couple weeks I've had a great time visiting friends, extended family, and visiting a church I've had a relationship with now since 2009. That was the same year I came to Costa Rica! It's really neat realizing I have a number of years of history with people I've gotten to know from life experiences as an adult. What a gift it is!
It has also been a gift to be at UWM's home office today. It's been great to reconnect with a number of people here and get to meet some newer people face-to-face who I had only known via email. I had the opportunity to share briefly during UWM's weekly prayer time and it was a honor to tell of what God has been doing in and through me in Costa Rica and have them gather around me and pray for me. I am so blessed, so thankful. God's goodness, faithfulness, and love are just amazing!
Thank you to all of you for your friendship, prayers, and the many ways you support my service to God with UWM: spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc. I am so grateful for you all! I continue to look forward to seeing more of you soon!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tico Tuesday, September 26th

Happy Tuesday, though I guess it's now Wednesday for many of you. I greatly covet your prayers as I have had a sore/scratchy throat most of the day and fear I'm coming down with a cold. I've been working a lot the past several weeks in preparation for my month-long trip (leaving Friday!) to the States. So, I know I might be a bit more susceptible catching a cold right now. Please pray for this to go away/for me to recover quickly and for my upcoming travels.
Tonight I want to share with you about the prayer vigil we had Friday night. We did a lot of things differently from other vigils and have heard a lot of positive feedback about it. Part of it was a lot like the concerts of prayer we used to do when I was in college and I really enjoyed it. We had a lot of different dynamic activities throughout the night, including this Wall of Thanksgiving. People wrote something they were thankful for on a piece of colored paper that was already stuck to the wall and once or twice over the course of the night, Ana Luisa (Rudy's wife, who is also in charge of planning our prayer vigils) read several of them aloud. It was a great, creative way to express our gratitude and praise to God. I spent most of my evening at a table helping people write down their prayer requests, tying ribbons around their wrists (so they'd know what station to pray at later), and writing their name on a piece of paper to have a "secret prayer buddy" (like a secret santa but instead of giving gifts you pray for them). I thought that was really neat too. God moved in us and spoke to us and the time absolutely flew by. There truly is no better place to be than God's presence!
I'll miss it here while I'm gone, but I'm really looking forward to seeing many of you soon and sharing more with you about all that God has been doing in, through, and around me!
With gratitude,

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tico Tuesday, September 19th

A real conversation that happened on Sunday:
Tico: Wow, you were so good at jumping rope at the traditional Independence Day breakfast yesterday!
Me: Really? Thanks!
Tico: Yeah, I was commenting with someone and we were both amazed! You jumped better than all the ticos!
Me: Well, I don't know about that...
Tico: Seriously, we couldn't believe how good you were at it.
Me: Really? Well, I guess I have a fair bit of experience jumping rope.
Tico: Really? Do they jump rope in the US too?
Me: Yeah! It's really common there. I did it a ton at recess when I was little. (I didn't mention I've also been known to jump rope as an adult, primarily for the sake of exercise)
Tico: Oh wow! I had no idea! I thought we only did that here!

This conversation struck me really funny. I confess my initial gut reaction wasn't the most gracious. But, this person genuinely thought jump-roping was a tradition unique to Costa Rica (or perhaps Central/Latin America). I think a lot of times we have no reason to believe our assumptions are wrong until they are challenged. If only it was easier to discover our false assumptions!
This also reminds me of something my mom has told me multiple times: I'm not normal. I've had the opportunity to see and experience a lot of things in this world, a lot more than many people will ever get to in their lifetime. This person really had no way of knowing if jumping rope was a typical activity among children in the US or not. (Maybe it isn't so much anymore, though I sure hope that's not the case!)
And so, a lesson in extending grace, giving thanks for all the opportunities God has given me, and trying to be a little more careful about what assumptions I might be making.
More on this amazing Costa Rican Independence Day weekend next week!
Thanks for praying for me as I'm now 10 days away from my month long trip outside the country. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by work, but hope and trust I'll be able to get done what I need to before I go. I look forward to seeing and sharing with many of you! Thank you again for all the ways you support and partner with me in ministry!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tico Tuesday, September 12th

As part of my preparations for my upcoming trip to the States, I'm finally making a new prayer card! I had a blast with my friend Ale (yes, the Small Group facebook page wonder is also a photographer!) doing a mini photo shoot so I could have a nice new picture. Now, I just need someone with some skills to mount the UWM logo and the "Please pray for Carrie Smith serving in Costa Rica" text on it before I send it off to snapfish. Who can help me?
And if you'd like an updated prayer card (or have never had one), please send me your address and I will get one in the mail to you.
A lot of other exciting things happened this past week: over 100 people came to the 101 Welcome Class, we had the International Children's Day party for 250 children at church with impressive Lego decor, we had a Christian ventriloquist come and do an evangelistic show as part of his farewell tour, I had another productive, encouraging meeting about small groups with Rudy, I got referred a new coaching client that has a goal unlike any of the other goals of my current clients, and I went to the beach yesterday. I also had new neighbors move in to the apartment above me.
I thank God for all He is doing in and around me. He continues to stir in my heart and teach and remind me important, life-giving truths. One example is: God is bigger and stronger than hurricanes! He always has been and always will be faithful, all-powerful, loving, and good. He knows what's going on, even when it sure doesn't make sense to human minds.
Thank you so much for your prayers for me and for your generous, faithful support. It is a joy to be on this journey with you. God is doing great things!