Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Carnatal!

Today the church here is leaving the city of Natal for a weekend retreat. The famous Carnaval season is upon us, but not really. The way it was explained to me is that Brasilians can't wait a full year for the traditional Carnaval celebrations, so each region or major city has their own at other parts of the year. This is so utterly Brasilian that it makes me laugh every time I think about it-- I told you Brasilians love to party! Carnatal (yep, that's the real name...) begins tonight, about a mile away from my apartment and the church building, and thus we are getting out of the city for a few days to avoid the madness. Should be a relaxing few days. I need it.


I've never been good at reading the Old Testament. I just didn't quite know what to do with it. However, this week, I've found special comfort, peace, and strength in the words of my buds Isaiah and David. I hope you can as well.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. -Isaiah 46:4

I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:9-10

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2

Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. -Psalm 25:20-21

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. -Psalm 121

Happy Carnatal!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Last night I carried home 28 blessings in my purse. On any other day of the year, I could guarantee you that by "blessings" I meant "Reais," (Brasilian currency) but last night they actually were real blessings, written on pieces of paper by my readers and friends.

Our Thanksgiving "party" was a huge success. (FYI, the reason I keep putting "party" in quotes is because I tried really hard to call it a Thanksgiving Feast. But, in sticking to their true nature in which every occasion is an occasion for a party, the Brasilians morphed the name slowly into Thanksgiving Party and so with reluctance I succumbed. But seriously...they love to party.) About 15 readers showed up (of the 20 who said they would...that's a great turnout!) and all of them contributed something to the feast, whether it was drinks, napkins, homemade desserts, and even homemade Farofa!! In addition to my readers, a few of the church members and a couple special American guests helped make the party a delight. The food was incredible and everyone was returning to the table to get seconds and thirds while truly enjoying themselves.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I was actually really bummed out about missing out on Thanksgiving with my family this year. On Thursday I kept trying to get emotional about it, but it just wasn't working when the temperature outside was upwards of 90 degrees. :) Anyway, it was a blessing to get to expose my Brasilian friends to the holiday and to the idea of setting aside a full day of the year to be thankful.

I wanted to share with you some of the blessings that the party goers hung on the blessings tree.( If one of you is reading this and this is yours, don't be embarrassed, I have no idea who wrote them.)
-Pela minha family I am agradesso very much, much. (For my family I am very thankful.)
-I am thankful for the breeze.
-I'm really thankful for have a really special friend by my side ALWAYS!

-Thanks God for get a job.
-Health, job, family.
-For my life, my family in Christ, and for all the blessings. :)

-My parents, my friends, and to have a chance to change.
-Love and peace in the world.
-Thanks God for my sons.

-Thanks God for I get buy my car.
-I thank for Cris's life.
(Ok, I really liked that one!)
-Thanks God for the health and for my family stay united.

Sergio, the true party planner, and I in front of the blessings tree

What Brazilian Thanksgiving would be complete without a GIANT pot of rice and beans?! You also see there homemade rolls, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, farofa, batat palha, and turkey. MMMMMMMM!!!

One of the was amaaaaaazing!

Half of the long feast table, waiting on dessert!

Marta, Osmildo, Andressa, Roberto, and Catherine enjoying the feast. This was the Bragas' first Thanksgiving experience, and Catherine told me about four times "Cris....I LOVE Thanksgiving!!"

Special thanks this time around to Marisa, Marta, and Sergio for doing the cooking and helping me with the planning. Seriously, this party would have been no party at all without them! Just another reminder to me of God's faithfulness!

Friday, November 23, 2007


You’re probably expecting a post on my opinion concerning what it’s like to spend Thanksgiving out of the country and away from family. While I had every intention of doing so, instead I would prefer to tell you that today I was in my elevator, going up to my apartment, and the power went out. That means the elevator came to a screeching (literally) halt, all the lights went out making the tiny 4-square-foot space pitch black, and I (not kidding) began to have images of that episode of Saved by the Bell when Mr. Belding’s pregnant wife gets stuck in an elevator with Zack and coincidentally goes into labor, only to have Zack save the day and deliver the baby minutes before the power comes back on. They named the baby Zack…in case you missed that one.

So, in this season of thankfulness, I am thankful for a few things:
1. Cell phones that can illuminate the tiny space of an elevator.
2. That I was not pregnant, nor in a labor, all alone in the elevator.
3. That my debilitating phobia is of bridges over bodies of water rather than small, dark spaces.
4. That last night the GIANT lizard that was hanging out on the wall directly outside my bathroom window did not enter my apartment.

Okay, so #4 is entirely unrelated, but man did I thank my lucky stars about that one last night…

You can expect the real Thanksgiving post tomorrow, after we have our Thanksgiving “party” with the readers.

Happy biggest shopping day of the year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sou Brasileira

I keep finding out that I am actually more Brasilian than I thought I was, and this is great news. I have a propensity to use 5 words where only 1 is necessary, and I'm pretty sure my friends and family suffer for it. You've already experienced this through reading my blog and emails. Or perhaps you have received one of my "just calling to say hi" voicemails, in which I basically have a conversation with myself for a solid minute. "Hiiii....I was just thinking about you, sooooo I thought I'd call and see how you were doinggggg....something funny happened today (insert funny thing here) and it made me laugh so hard because remember that one time when (insert funny memory here) happened and we couldn't stop laughing? Sooooo, me back if you feel like it....and if not.....then I'll just talk to you laterrrrrr!!!" Yep, it's annoying. I know it. But it's me.

So today my friend Sergio was asking me how to phrase an email that he was trying to compose in English to Americans. I said: "Say this: 'Hi, Our plans for our Thanksgiving party on Saturday have changed. It will now be at 12 instead of 2. I hope you can still come! See you then!"

"That's all?" he said. "'re writing to Americans, right?" I asked. "Yeah....but I don't need to say anything else?" I heard the discomfort in his voice. I recognized it. It was the same discomfort with which I told him what to write. "I know, right?" I said, "With Americans, it's perfectly acceptable to be brief, to the point. No need for flowery language and 5 words where 1 will do. They appreciate it." "Okay...." he said.

As he walked back downstairs, I smiled to myself. Now I know where I get my verbosity. (Okay, I really got it from my dad...) And now I know why it has never gone away. And now I know why I'm perfectly fine with it...

Eu sou brasileira!!! (I am Brazilian!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Life without God's like a donut...'cause there's a hole in the middle of your heart.

If you knew me when I was 9, I have two words for you: Donut Hole. If you didn't know me when I was 9, Donut Hole was a Christian video "series" (pretty sure there were only two...and only one of them was good...) made for children in which a gaggle of children (the majority of whom were from the same family, there were like 12 kids with the same last name) acted out skits and sung songs to tell Bible stories. I, along with my friends and sister and sister's friends, watched these Donut Hole videos like they were the latest Hollywood Blockbusters, and even put on our own Donut Hole production at the Turnpike Road Church of Christ in Santa Barbara, California. (Oh, how I wish YouTube existed back then!) I knew the songs from Donut Hole backwards and forwards, and as was evidenced today during one of my reading sessions, apparently I still do?

As I was reading and talking with one of my readers, who is extremely intelligent and does not believe the way of Christ is the only way...if a way at all, we began talking about an idea called positive thinking. He told me that he believes in positive thinking, where when he thinks positively about his life, positive things will happen. I asked him if he had ever considered the possibility that, in those positive things that happen, could God be trying to get his attention? (I know...HUGE limb...but I decided to venture out on it...) So we talked about this idea further, and I remembered the story of Paul's conversion. Paul, I explained, the most famous of all apostles in the world (my current residence in Natal is named after him...) began his career by persecuting Christians. Then, one day, on the road to Damascus, God got his attention in a BIG way. (Acts 9) The only problem was, however, that as I was telling this story, I was forgetting a LOT of details. Without my Bible there, I tried to remember what I could of the story, when all of the sudden an image popped into my mind from the Donut Hole video with the words "Saul! Saul! Saul! Why do you hurt me?" (repeat 3 times.) By playing the story from the video through my mind, I was able to tell my reader the story of Paul's conversion.

I also vividly remember that really the main reason I watched Donut Hole so much was because I had a small (ok, huge) crush on the boy who played Ananias in Paul's conversion story. I attribute my vivid memory of the story to my crush, as I watched and rewound that particular skit many, many, many times to squeal and giggle over how cute Ananias was. As a precocious 9 year old, I also went to find the story in my Bible. Imagine my surprise when I actually found a story about a different Ananias, and rather than helping Paul to become a believer, this happened: "Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him." -Acts 5

Ok, so apparently Ananias was a common name back in the day. But I will never again say that those kinds of videos don't work, and I will always be wary to condemn an innocent crush. Mine taught me the Bible, and lasted 13 years... :).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cows Holes and Lizards

*After you read this post, please make sure to read the following one. I posted it earlier today and want to make sure everyone sees it.*

Today was another one of those days where I just absolutely fell in love with my readers. They all did something this week to further endear themselves to me, whether through their excitement that they are speaking English well, or by always saying "bye bye" as they leave, or by thinking long and hard after reading the lesson from Luke and saying "Wow...this is very important." Today, as I read this lesson with my final reader of the day, we began talking once again about the difficulty that money can bring to the Christian life. Many of our conversations recently have turned to this subject, and he has very strong opinions on how money can come to control and ultimately strangle a person. As he explained to me yet again how the love of money can be evil, he attempted to quote, from memory, one of Jesus' more famous statements. Before you think condescending thoughts, keep in mind that he was not speaking in his native language, and then tell me if it looks familiar. :)

"It is easier for a cow to pass through a hole than go to heaven."

On the eve of yet another Brasilian holiday, I am home feeling refreshed, encouraged, and happy as a lizard. Perhaps you have never heard the expression 'happy as a lizard,' and perhaps it is because I just made it up. I don't actually think this lizard is too happy, because if it's the same one I've seen for the last three days, he's been imprisoned in my apartment since Monday:(To give you a size comparison, my hand is as long as the part of the door handle that's pictured to the right of the little guy.)

If he's not the same one, then I have a much bigger problem on my hands and need to find a way to get rid of these tiny lizards quickly. Last night as I tried liberate him onto the balcony, I decided to affectionately name him Chatinho, a word that I really don't know how to translate. "Chato" means annoying, and "chatinho" I guess would mean little annoying one. To give you a hint, my mom used to call me "Chatinha" quite often as a child :). ('Ooooooh Chatinha! she would say. It brings back such pleasant memories...) I am not a fan of lizards in my home, but he is small so he's more cute than disturbing. I do hope, however, that Chatinho finds a new home soon.

I think I managed to bring the strange summer weather Oklahoma endured during the months of May, June, and July with me to Natal. It has been raining quite a bit for the past week, and I'm not talking normal Natal rain where it rains for 5 minutes then disappears like it made a mistake, never to show up again. I mean it rains, hard, for like 10 minutes. Then it stops, but comes back again an hour later and rains hard again. Somehow, though, I manage to always be inside during the rain and needing to go somewhere during the sunshine. And I bet I just jinxed myself by telling you that. Here's to me getting soaked the next time I leave my apartment...

Happy Proclamação da República tomorrow! Hope you enjoy it as much as I will!

A Way to Feel Smart and Help the World

Special thanks to my former roommate for directing me to this site...

Kelly, if you didn't already know about it, I feel really, really cool.

Improve your vocabulary, give away some rice:

A Natal update is coming soon!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just to Clarify

I was thinking last night about how most of my blog posts are about life in Natal, and not necessarily about my day to day, 8-5 job (or 10-8, actually) that I'm here to do. Every few posts I'll mention the reading sessions, or readers in particular, but that's not because I'm not enjoying them or don't find them important enough to write about. On the short-term LST projects, LST trains its workers how to blog appropriately, talking mostly about the reading sessions and minimally about what they do on their days off. I think this is extremely important, as you do spend 5 days of your week working all day and only 2 days resting/sight-seeing. Sometimes on the short-term projects you even end up with more pictures of the sight-seeing than your reading sessions, even though most of your time and energy was spent on reading. That's just the way it goes, especially when you're in a beautiful city like Natal!

However, my internship is much more than a 6 week project. When I moved to Natal, I moved to Natal. My life here consists of waking up every morning and "going to work," but it also consists of making friends, hanging out on the weekends, going grocery shopping, learning how to clean my apartment, finding weird Brasilian game shows on TV, spending time with the missionaries, going to church activities, learning the hang of public transportation, and yes, even going to the beach sometimes. I hope that you don't get the wrong impression when the pictures I post are of sunsets and friends. I work a 40 hour week just like you do, I promise! (FYI, my 40 hour work week consists of individual reading sessions, group reading sessions, preparation time, talking with my LST supervisor, writing correspondence to my supporters, studying Portuguese, other areas of ministry with the church, spending time with readers outside of sessions, etc. Yes, it adds up to at least 40 hours, but now you understand why I put "going to work" in quotations. It rarely feels like "work"!)

I wanted to maintain this blog for my friends, family, and supporters to know what was going on with me here in Natal. Therefore, the things I take the time to write about are "what's going on with me." I hope you have been enjoying it, and I hope you know that you are a part of furthering God's Kingdom in Natal. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for your encouragement!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How To Score Serious Brownie Points With Your Missionary

I would like to dedicate this post, and the rest of the posts in 2007, to my friend Jim Kizer. Some of you who keep up with the comments section have seen him comment a few times under the moniker "Kizer," always with a encouraging word and maybe some advice on how to send mass emails more efficiently. :) I dedicate the rest of the posts in 2007 to Jim because he was able to make a group of 10 Brasilians the happiest Brasilians in Natal, no doubt, for the rest of this year.

Jim is a friend from ACU, and for the past year he has been an employee of the Acappella company. A couple months ago he let me know that Acappella would be making a stop in Natal on their Brazilian tour, and I shamelessly asked what my friendship with him could get me (or save me...the tickets were expensive!)

Being a man of his word, Jim talked to his friends who were traveling with the group and let me know yesterday that I would be able to get in. I brought my friend Sergio with me, as he did not have a ticket but is a huge Acappella fan, and we went to look for Jim's friend. Not only did Jim's friend let us in, but he seated us before the doors opened, let us move to VIP seating once all the concert-goers were seated, arranged with the head of security (a Baptist missionary from around here, also my new friend,) for us to meet the group privately afterward, and gave me a free, autographed CD to boot. It was really fun for me because I've never been given special treatment like that before, but also exciting because my friends were SO EXCITED. Roberto's eyes were glowing as we sat on the floor in the VIP chairs, so close to the stage, and Sergio was giddy as we took pictures with the guys afterwards. All of the Acappella guys were so nice, and acted just as excited to meet us as we were to meet them!

Roberto, Marisa, and Sergio have done so much for me since I've been in Natal, I had been feeling overwhelmed, almost defeated, by the prospect that I would never really be able to repay them, let alone thank them enough. So, I think this helped.... :)

Sergio and I with happy eyes because we were in disbelief that it actually worked

Waiting for the show to start

Roberto, Marisa, and Sergio with the Acappella guys

THANKS, JIM!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Joao Pessoa Retreat

The group from Natal the first night. Everyone dressed in black that night...we're not just a bunch of weirdos.

Watching the sunset from the roof Saturday evening
(L-R: Rejane, Kelly, Marisa, Sarah, Catherine)

Our group waiting on the van to arrive to take us home!
(Me, Nathalia, Sarah, Kelly, Andre, Catherine, Rejane, Roberto, Rafael, Pipa)

Once again...the group from Natal minus Andressa, who managed to get the chicken pox after working so hard to raise money for everyone to go! :(
(L-R: Nathalia, Rejane, Pipa, Andre, Rafael, Kelly, Roberto, Catherine, Sarah, me, Jaime)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with creative titles for my entries, so my apologies for the incredibly lame-o ones I do end up using. I have good news to share with the blogging community of Living and Loving: as of today, I am officially a fully-documented Brasilian. Sure, I always had the Passport. Yes, I paid an absurd amount of money for Brasilia to send me a color-printer copy of my birth certificate on printer paper. Yes, I am registered to vote (and paid a penalty because I didn't do it when I was 18...woops. How could I have forgotten to do that on my 18th birthday 3 days before my high school graduation?) Yes, I received my CPF card in the mail a few weeks ago and don't really know what it's good for but everyone makes a big deal about it. After all these things, I was still missing one, last document. Today I finally got my Identidade, my general ID card that serves the same way as a driver's license serves in the US. (Except mine doesn't let me drive...and don't worry, I don't want to get that one.) The picture is terrible and my thumbprint looks like my finger is the width of my foot, but nevertheless, it's here and I'm a real person now. My skin might be white as a ghost and my hair might be blonde (according to them,) but I am legally as Brasilian as my doorman and the President. I just took a picture of all my documents laid out to show you, then realized that putting a photo on the internet of all my legal documents with my ID numbers clear as day was about the dumbest thing I could ever do. So, sorry. I guess you can't see all my cool Brasilian things. :(

Today I also bought an English/Portuguese Bible, which was actually more exciting for me than getting my Identidade. I have been waiting to buy this Bible for a while, until I had a little extra money, but after using my friend's at the retreat this weekend, I realized that it was invaluable and I needed to have it now. I spent the rest of the afternoon staring at it, so excited for every time I will use it and get to read the same verse in English and Portuguese, side by side! It is going to be a great learning tool for me to learn Portuguese, and will be so helpful to use in my classes when my readers don't understand a certain story or scripture in English. Fun fact: the Portuguese translation for "Passover" in the Bible is what we call "Easter." I could not figure out last week why my friend was complaining that his birthday is close to Passover, and therefore he only ever gets chocolate on his birthday. I found this strange, as I thought about how I personally had never given anyone chocolate on Passover...until I read the Portuguese-English Bible this weekend and realized what he had been saying. And thus I just demonstrated to you another perk to having a Portuguese-English Bible.

Two of my readers believe in Predestination and this is weird for me. Not weird because I think they are weirdos, but weird because when I was preparing for this internship, I prepared myself to show Jesus to non-believers, and did not prepare to discuss the validity of the doctrine of Predestination with fellow not at all. If you have had this same experience, please send an email or comment my way with some advice. The battles are entirely based on scripture and our individual interpretations, which is what makes it so hard.

Okay, I have more to say but I want to be respectful of your time. I'm thinking that this is the week I'm finally going to buy the things I'm missing in my apartment. You know, maybe some silverware, a spatula, pots and pans. It's amazing how long you can go living without those things. :) Have a good week!

Verse of the week, just because it's my favorite:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:3-4

and in Portuguese...

Não façam nada que seja motivado por despique, nem que seja provocado por interesses pessoais. Mas sejam humildes: que cada um considere os outros superiores a si mesmo.
Não pensem unicamente nos vossos interesses, mas procurem também aquilo que interessa aos outros. -Filipenses 2:3-4

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Great Weekend, a Great Brother in Law, Everything is Great Today

My creative writing juices just aren't flowing today, but I wanted to check back in with you and tell you two things.

1. I had a wonderful weekend. I traveled with some of the church members to a nearby city, Joao Pessoa, for a youth retreat. (Here, 'youth' actually includes anyone between the ages of like 11 and 25. I count.) They church there did an incredible job with the retreat, and I hope I'm around next year to go again! :) Like a true Carpenter, I forgot my camera and therefore missed out on some pretty great pictures of sunsets, friends, and the bathrooms without doors (just kidding, I wouldn't take a picture of that,) but hopefully I will get some of the ones my friends took and upload them later. I made a new friend, an American girl who has been living in a city outside Recife as an AIM worker for 2 years, and really enjoyed getting to talk with her and share our experiences. I am in the infancy of my internship and she is at the end, so it was good to have someone to talk to who really understood where I am coming from and was able to offer me insight and little inspiration for where I am headed. We were shy to talk to each other at first because I thought she was a missionary kid, and therefore had really good Portuguese and maybe didn't claim the US so much and wouldn't want to talk to me, and she was afraid to talk to me for the same reason. We ended up playing Uno together on Saturday evening and I wasn't saying a word in Portuguese, afraid of speaking incorrectly and with an accent in front of her. Turns out she was doing the same thing, afraid that I would judge her Portuguese. :) It was so funny when we realized that we had had the same misconceptions about each other and it had prevented us from talking earlier! She also told me that up until we talked, she and everyone else at the retreat had been trying to decide if I was American or Brasilian (rather than actually talking to me or any of my friends and finding out, which I also find hilarious. I'm like a "blonde" haired blue eyed tiny monster here.) She said they had come to the conclusion that I was Brasilian, which is exciting for me, but also explains why I got stared at a lot...again.

2. My brother in law whipped up an amazing newsletter for me to send out to my supporters, and I want to brag on him for it. I had written something out to send to supporters who aren't on my email list, and asked him if he would be able to format it to make it entertaining to look at. What he came up with was about 6 gazillion times better than what I had even been hoping for, let alone expecting. It was only going to go through the mail to a handful of people, but it looks so cool that I think I want to email it, too. So if you're on the email expecting something soon. And if you're not on the email list...leave a comment and ask to be. Or email me at my last name dot my first name (cris) at gmail dot com.

Have a great Monday! I'm sure I'll be back soon...