Saturday, November 27, 2010

Continent Care Connection

Two years ago when I went to the Continent Connection Conference put on by Continent of Great Cities, I had such an uplifting, encouraging, refreshing week that I immediately began planning and saving for the next conference in 2010. At that point I didn't even know if I would still be in Brazil in 2010, but just in case, I made plans. It was that good. When the much-anticipated date of October 4th rolled around (one day after the elections I blogged about,) I was giddy with excitement to return to the beautiful beach town of Maresias and enjoy a week of worship, sharing, resting, and reconnecting with other missionary women from South America.

This year was everything I was expecting and more. We spent 5 days at a beachfront resort sharing in times of worship and prayer, classes on topics ranging from contemplative prayer to boundaries in relationships to the importance of female companionship, connection groups which served to connect us more intimately with each other and share about struggles in our work and personal lives, and lots of eating. :)

I reconnected with many old friends from the days when my family lived in Brasilia, some friends I made at the conference in 2008, some friends I had never met but had corresponded with through this blog, and was blessed to make many new friends. There were about 40 missionary participants and (I think) about 15 women who came from the US to spend time with us as small group facilitators, speakers, organizers, gift-givers, counselors, and friends.

On a personal level, I can say I returned to Natal a different person. Not only rested, but also confident that God used that week at CCC to show me many areas of my life where I was needing to make some changes, as well as showing me areas where I can be confident I am following His will. I came back to Natal determined to make these changes and live confidently, and in the weeks since the conference I have been blessed by the results.

In a week so centered on gratitude, I am reminded of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to go to CCC for a second time. God blessed me with a great week of companionship and learning. I was blessed by the extreme generosity of the women who came to serve us for five whole days, and was blessed by the lessons they had to teach us and the way God used them in such perfect ways that we know only He could have orchestrated it. I am grateful for the generosity of the donors who made CCC financially possible-- because of them, all we had to do was get ourselves to Sao Paulo and the rest was taken care of. It was an unforgettable week.

My connection group: me, Amy, and Rachel

The beautiful food table on our final night. If you look closely, you can see that "Continent Care Connection" is carved into the watermelon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Before I resume my blog blitz on the aforementioned activities of the past few months, I feel it is necessary to stop on this day and tell you all (or most) the things for which I am thankful. Although it is not Thanksgiving in Brazil, it is Thanksgiving in my heart. So here are just a few things that make my heart cheerful today.
  • the turkey breast sandwich I ordered from Subway today and the little laugh I had with me and myself over my private nod to the holiday
  • the blessing of having friends who feel like family who, all on their own, offered to put together a Thanksgiving meal and invite me out for a Thanksgiving celebration because they knew today I might be missing home
  • having a roommate who makes this big apartment feel less lonely (also a future blog topic)
  • having a big, beautiful apartment in which I have enough room to host friends for Thanksgiving tonight and a wedding shower tomorrow
  • the fact that rice is included in every Brazilian meal, including our Thanksgiving meal tonight :)
  • the testimony I heard in one of my classes today of a woman who is so obviously filled with the Holy Spirit. I found out she spent 35 years of her life as a "priestess" in one of Brazil's most prominent pagan religions
  • the music at my gym that motivates me to work out with a little more vigor and laugh at how stupid and uncreative the lyrics are
  • the fact that I have motivation to work out daily at the gym...I mean seriously...who ever would have guessed THAT day would come?
  • a washing machine that makes me not to have to hand-wash my clothes
  • fans
  • my two big, beautiful jasmine trees. One is about to flower and I just can't wait!
  • the daytime doorman who works at my building. I have never seen a person so eager to take out the trash (Sorry, Dad. Carlinos has you beat, but not by much!)
  • my new purple-handled flatware. It was on sale, totally clashes with my home decor, but it makes me laugh nonetheless!
  • the fact that I will eat turkey tonight
  • the fact that I will actually put to use 5 pipecleaners I received at a conference in October at the wedding shower tomorrow
  • the Skype webcam chat I am about to have with my parents and extended family in Arkansas. It will be my grandpa's first time to Skype. Should be fun!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2 things

1. It was brought to my attention that my third post in my recent blog blitz was out of order and dated as November 7. I figured out it was because I had written it early and published it later, so it was published on the original date. Make sure to check it out, it's about my friend's visit to Natal!

2. My friend Brent, who is a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia, has done it again. He wrote a very poignant post on the role loneliness plays when you are living overseas, away from your home culture. He also beautifully explains how that place that, at first seemed so lonely, suddenly turns into home. If you would like to read it, click here.

The blogging blitz continues...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


As I mentioned before, coming out of LST season, as I like to call it, is like the crash after drinking one of those Monster energy drinks. I walk around dazed, not sure what to do during the hours of 9 to 9. I look at the food in my kitchen and wonder how I am supposed to cook it. The phone rings and I cringe, hoping it's not a reader canceling his reading session. And then I remember that the LST season has passed. I have my own classes to put together and begin. I take the food out of the refrigerator and remember that I have never cooked anything complicated, and just because I have been eating in a lot of restaurants doesn't mean I forgot all of my kitchen knowledge. And when the phone rings, I remember that it's most likely not for me. (And then I do a little dance.)

As fun as it is getting an average of 2 hours of sleep more each night in those weeks following the end of the LST season, the most fun part is most definitely getting to continue in the studies with the LST readers. Unfortunately, going from a team of workers with 5 members to my team which includes exactly 1 worker (me), not all of the readers can continue. I ask the opinion of the LST teams on who they think has the interest to continue, and who seemed the most open to talking and learning about the Bible.

This year I put a list together of about 25 readers. Most of them were put into group classes, and because of scheduling conflicts, two were put into individual reading sessions. The group classes have been using The Sycamore Series, a series of Bible studies published by Let's Start Talking. Since the intended audience of the series is native English speakers, the studies go deeper and use longer texts than the regular LST material aimed at those who are learning English. Since most of my students are very advanced English speakers, it has been an absolutely perfect fit. They have loved the texts, the new vocabulary, and the questions that really make them think. We have had great conversations about trust, baptism, Jesus' crucifixion, and what it means to live in a way that reflects we know those stories.

Not only do I love watching my students discover these stories and make real-life applications, it has also been encouraging to me to read these stories I've known for so long through fresh eyes. I am thankful for the way the Holy Spirit has moved in these studies and taught us all more about God's word. As always, I pray that they will gradually begin to care less and less about the English and more and more about God's message.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friends are friends forever, especially when you live on the beach

Since moving to Natal, I have invited so many friends to come visit me that I never even started counting. I invite everyone, hoping that one day someone might say "Hey...that sounds like a good idea!" and actually come. Never did I actually imagine that it would happen. Natal is hard to get to-- so hard that I assumed only the love of a family member would be enough to make someone actually make the trip. I have been blessed to host my parents here twice in the last three years and my sister and brother-in-law once. I was a pretty happy camper.

Enter: July. My friend Lezlie, whom I went to high school with, puts up a Facebook status saying she has some money, has some time before the semester starts, and would like to take an international trip. Did anyone have any suggestions? I, of course, jumped at the chance and was first to comment with "come to Natal!" Imagine my shock when she wrote back and basically said "Really? Ok." I never thought that would happen!

Mere weeks later I was picking up Lezlie and her friend, Jason, from the Natal airport for a week of Brazilian fun. The timing was perfect. I had just finished up the LST season and was in desperate need of some down time. What better way to spend down time than showing off my beautiful city to my friend?

The week she was here went quickly, but we had a blast! We stayed at a hotel on the beach for a couple nights, which means we had great Brazilian hotel breakfast for a couple mornings. We enjoyed the hotel's rooftop pool and its entrance right onto the beach. We got massages on the beach and spent a day on a dune buggy. Lezlie got to try all of the most important Brazilian foods and meet my church family. I'm so thankful she came!

Lezlie, Jason, and I on the dune buggy

Lezlie and I overlooking my future residence (yeah right)

The invitation is still open for anyone else who would like to come visit! I promise that Natal and I will partner together to show you a great time!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brazilian Elections

If I were to say "I'm so glad elections are over!" you would probably say "me too!" If I were to say "I'm so glad the bumper stickers are gone...and the TV ads...and the robocalls..." you would probably say "me too!" If I were to say "I'm so glad the streets are quiet..." you would probably say "huh?"

Some of you may remember two years ago my post about the local city elections. I was pretty excited because I got to (had to) vote and it was my first time voting in Brazil. This time around, it was still exciting because we were voting for president, but it lost its luster as soon as the dreaded political jingles started waking me up at inconvenient times and disrupting my quiet life.

The biggest way that political candidates advertise their candidacy is by BLASTING their campaign jingles. Here we vote by a candidate's election ID number, so the jingle has to be annoying enough to get stuck in your head and permanently burn the candidate's number into your brain so that you will remember it on election day. They start about two months ahead of the elections and drive around the city all day long, every day of the week. The richer the candidate, the more money he has to rent giant sound cars and, sometimes, trucks the size of a parade float. This year the elections were for governor, state reps, federal reps, federal senators, and the president. The good news is that, since those positions are a bit more prestigious than city councilman, there were fewer candidates and thus fewer jingles. The bad news is there were still jingles. And lots of 'em.

Election day was blissful. On election day the sound cars are silenced and the Brazilian people are allowed to go to the polling stations in peace. Due to Brazil's high-tech voting system, soon after polls closed at 5pm we knew who had won. Our state's new governor was announced, as were our reps and senators. Only the presidential election was sent into a runoff because none of the candidates got 50% of the vote. But the presidential runoff was still 3 weeks away, and so I began to dream of my life going back to normal. I live on one of the main thoroughfares through town, so my street had been heavily trafficked by ALL of the campaign cars.

The day after the election I was leaving for a trip to Sao Paulo at 3:30 am. I went to bed at midnight, planning on getting 3 hours of sleep before leaving for the airport. At approximately 1:58 am, I was jolted awake by the sound of a campaign jingle. "This isn't right," I thought. "The election is over. And it's 2am!" I looked out my window and saw a small group of people gathered on the corner, waving the new governor's flag and dancing to her jingle. I was pretty frustrated, knowing I would lose one full hour of sleep before going to the airport. I went back to bed, hoping that I would be sleepy enough to drown it out. Wrong. Minutes later, this happened:

That's right. That's the new governor's victory parade, which paraded by my apartment for at least half an hour. The crackling sounds are fireworks. The song is one of her campaign jingles, one of the many that I heard for two straight months. The people dancing in the street are probably drunk. All of this footage was taken from my bedroom window, where I was obviously not sleeping but thankfully lucid enough to grab my camera and document it as probably no one would believe me if I were to just tell the story. At some point the new governor rode by on one of the trucks, but I can't remember if it's on the video.

Oh yeah, and the female candidate won the presidential runoff last Sunday. I thought it was pretty cool that I got to witness and participate in Brazilians electing their first woman president!

Maybe NOW things will quiet down....

Well this is embarrassing...

I came here today to see how long it had been since my last post. I was very ashamed to find a thin, blue "September 21" staring right back at me, and even more embarrassed that that post wasn't even legit, since I was sharing someone else's blog with you. I had some pretty great intentions to resume my regular blogging, especially after my 3-year anniversary, but apparently good intentions don't get me very far. Does anyone even read this blog anymore?

Coming out of LST season is like crashing after a sugar high. For two packed months I was going going going and then suddenly...I was going, resting, going some more, and then resting a little longer, and then thinking about going, and then definitely resting. The pace of my everyday life has definitely changed, but it has not been unexciting!

In order to not write one huge post that people might not even read, I am going to prepare several posts to publish throughout the next days/weeks for you to get caught up on what's happened since July. As a reminder to myself, and so that you can hold me accountable, there will be posts about the following things:
  • my first non-family visitor
  • Brazilian elections
  • Children's Day
  • my trip to Sao Paulo for the Continent Care Connection
  • my group classes
  • the continuation of the church's remodeling process (tentative)
You can be honest...I know you're excited. On Tuesday I'm going to Recife and won't be back until Sunday, so if you are actually interested in holding me accountable, please refrain from doing so until next week. I am going to Recife for an intensive Portuguese Bible study, and also to see if once and for all I can call a truce with that city. My guess is no, but I hope to at least get some good Bible-studying out of it. :)