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!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tico Tuesday, August 29th

Tuesday greetings to you all once more!
Great sunsets at church never get old!
This past week was full of some crazy busy days packed with errands and wonderfully productive meetings and days at the office. Before we had this office space, I used to always have to work from home. And, I've continued to do a lot of work from home. But, lately, I've been trying to take more advantage of the fact that I actually have office space and a desk. And last week, I started a new habit I'm really liking. It consists of only doing work at work. Pretty wild, right? A couple nights, I actually even left my computer at the office! That meant I was able to come home and read and rest a bit. Wednesday, I got to the office at about 9:30 and came home for an hour in the afternoon before returning for our midweek service. I almost didn't come home, but I'm so glad I did! Otherwise I would have spent over 11 straight hours at church.
I've been learning and thinking a lot about limits lately. It is quite an accomplishment for me to decide to leave work at work as much as I can. There is always more to be done, there always will be. So, in order to live a healthy life and protect myself from burnout, I need to set boundaries for myself. And I see this tying in perfectly with what God has been teaching me about trusting him. Setting and respecting limits with work is a way for me to practice trusting God and remember that I am serving him. He has everything under control. It is about him. I am not a slave to small group coordination: I am a servant, friend, and daughter of my perfect, loving heavenly Father. And I like that. It fills me with peace and gives me a great sense of freedom.
May you sense God's peace and freedom this week, and be encouraged to trust him to help you identify and implement a new boundary you may need in your life.
With love,

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tico Tuesday, August 22nd

Greetings to you all once again!
This Sunday I finally was able to go to visit our church plant at our drug rehab center! It's often hard for me to get away on the weekends, but at last it worked out for me to go. While the centro is almost directly north of us, there are also mountains directly north of us, so we have to drive around them to get there. Most of the drive is through a verdant national park, so, if it's not too foggy, cloudy, or rainy, it's gorgeous. The road is narrow and curvy though.
The rehab center is a small, simple place. It has individual cabins for each of the 16 men going through the intensive 3 month program. On Sundays their families brings them the food they need for the week and they are responsible for making their own food, handwashing their laundry, and they also help with maintenance and gardening projects around the grounds, along with receiving the rest of their treatment.
I think what impacted me most was the time of worship through singing. (My pictures of that were blurry or back-lit. Bummer!) Watching the men in the program sing to God was powerful. How often do I sing and completely forget about the words coming from my lips? These guys sang to God with all their hearts. The phrase that came to mind was, "he who has been forgiven much, loves much." It is so true. These are guys from really rough backgrounds, who have been on the streets, who have lost so much, who have been forgiven much. And they learn to love God and know that He is the answer, he alone satisfies, frees, restores, transforms, and saves. It was very encouraging to be there. And I really enjoyed the time with my friends Mónica and Daniel who took me.
In other news, my current migratory process got sent back to square one on Friday. That was obnoxious, but at least I was able to write emails and read while I waited in line for 4 hours, so it wasn't time wasted. Migration here is an amazing picture of inefficiency, ridiculous complications, and treating humans like cattle. Not very pleasant, but until some serious reform and technological advances are implemented, I'm learning to just roll with the punches. Please keep my migratory processes in your prayers.
May God continue to grow our love for him and our awareness of him each day,

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tico Tuesday, August 15th

Greetings to you on this Costa Rican Mother's Day!
Here's what Ale and I will be working on together!
Do you ever feel like you hit a jackpot? Getting to have my mom as my mom is a jackpot, but in terms of work this past week or so, I feel like I hit a jackpot too. Since I went to the small group strategic planning conference, I've been more motivated to find someone to help Small Groups in the area of social media. Social media is not my strength, and it is something I knew would be really good for me to delegate to a volunteer. When I went to Fraijanes a couple weeks ago, I noticed my friend Alejandra showing great ease and domination of technology and social media and mentioned to her the idea that she help me. Ale said she'd be happy to help. I mentioned it to her again a few days later, making sure our conversation had been serious and not just a joke, and she affirmed that she had been serious too. So we've now met a couple times to talk things over and start developing a plan, and Ale is amazing! It wasn't until our last meeting when she was blowing me away with her wonderful ideas that I found out: she has a degree in marketing! No wonder she has so many great ideas and such a good hold on what we need to do! Jackpot! But really, I know it is God's provision. Ale is a mature, hilarious friend that I know will be committed and dependable. If you feel like working on your Spanish or just admiring Ale's genius, check out the Grupos Pequeños VAH page on facebook.
Thank you to all of you again for being God's provision to me. I wouldn't be here were it not for you!