Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Once before I've blogged specifically about my church here in Natal. I talked about all of the qualities about it that I love so much, and one of those is that it really feels like a family. There's a lot to be said for large churches: good Bible classes, lots of resources, large missions budget (I particularly appreciate that one...) but if you've ever been a part of a small church, you know there is a big difference. Sometimes a small church can be frustrating...you know everyone's business, and, worse, everyone knows YOUR business. But sometimes that's the very thing that makes a small church a close-knit family. Everyone does know your business, so you can't hide your struggles. Everyone knows your business, so you have support whether you want it or not! Last night I witnessed yet another reason why I love my church family in Natal, and yet another example of their commitment to Christ and sharing the Gospel.

Meet Caio. For those of of you who have been to Natal, you surely remember Caio. Caio is one of the most energetic human beings I have ever known. He is upbeat and has a huge heart. He has the greatest intentions in the world, and is always looking for opportunities to learn and serve. Yesterday Caio turned 22. Like most 22 year old young men, Caio had a birthday party and asked that all of his guests bring him a present: a Bible verse. Wait...what? A 22 year old man voluntarily chose that his birthday party be a Bible study? Ok...so that's what we did. We all gathered at the church building, sat in a circle, and one by one shared a Bible verse that is significant to us and that we wish to bless Caio. Caio, being the intelligent person that he is, used the opportunity to invite his family to join us. The majority of his immediate and extended family are not committed Christians, but in Brazil, a surefire way to get your nonChristian family members to participate in a Bible-based activity is to hold it on your birthday. :) We had about 25 people in the circle, ages 8 to about 50, and each person shared scripture with Caio. By the time it got around to his family members, they were searching through the Bible as well, looking for something they could share, and what they shared was beautiful. It was an incredibly powerful evening, and you could not have asked for a bigger smile from Caio. It was all he wanted.

As I sat in the circle listening to the variety of subjects that were touched upon (wisdom, love, friendship, maturity, faith) I couldn't help but wonder how unique this gathering was. How many birthday parties have you been to where the sole purpose is to share scripture with the birthday boy? How many birthday parties have you been to where you were asked to bring a verse from the Bible as your gift? Caio's party made a huge impression on me, and made me fall in love with my little church all over again. We are not perfect, and as we try to imitate Christ each day we fail, but yesterday I was reassured in a special way that at least we're heading in the right direction.

Oh, and we had cake and the most delicious party foods afterward. That never hurts!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I enjoyed blogging so much last night that I decided to return today with an illustrative post.

This was my birthday celebration in Oklahoma before I came back to Natal. There are many reasons why I love this picture. #1, I am wearing a t-shirt. I don't wear t-shirts in Natal, it's too hot. #2, I am with my parents. My parents were funny on this day. Very very funny... #3, I have in front of me a plain cheesecake with freshly-made strawberry sauce on top. One of the best birthday cakes I've ever had, and I'm not even a big fan of cheesecake. I just had a hankerin' and Cheesecake Factory had the product. And Mom had the strawberries. YUM!

I took this photo sometime last week from my apartment. I'm excited about moving, but I'm going to miss the 8th-story sunset view. However, I'm sure I will grow to love the breeze even more and quickly forget about the sunset. Or I can just look at this picture.

This was at the church's Mother's Day tea the Saturday before Mother's Day. It was a beautiful event and we had a great turnout. My job was to take photos of each mom and her kids when they walked in the door. Here's Marisa and her children. :)

The rest are pictures from my actual birthday. Some of my friends planned for us to go out for pizza at my favorite pizza place. The pizza on that particular night was extremely disappointing, but I had eaten Mexican food at lunch so I didn't leave too hungry...

This is the prettiest candid photo I have ever taken. Which is why I really hate candid photos. If I ever see a camera pointed at me to take a candid photo, I try to pose and smile. If this is the best...you sure don't want to see the worst... (I'm eating a slice of chocolate pizza, by the way.)

In these photos you will notice how long my hair is. I finally went yesterday to get a few inches cut off and made the terrible mistake of NOT telling the stylist to NOT cut it in the shape of a V. Some of you may remember the U-haircut. Let me tell you, my friends. It's a very pretty V, but still a V. I learned my lesson and will not be so negligent in the future. Cris-0, Alphabetical haircuts-2.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I've been back in Natal for just over a month and it feels so good to be home again. I get awkward about these kinds of things sometimes (like the first weekend my freshman year at ACU that I spent away from my roommate, I was worried it would be awkward when I got back. Um...weird) and was worried that I might feel like I was out of the loop and had missed a lot. Well, I totally did feel out of the loop and it was amazing just how much happened in the 2 short months I was gone, but Natal is still home, and it's always good to be home.

Since being back I've been on the hunt for a new apartment, one that preferably has good air flow, safe localization, and space to entertain, three major qualities which my current apartment does not have. Renting is a complicated process in Brazil, you basically have to prove you are of royal bloodline to be allowed to rent property, and even then your royal bloodline has to pay a hefty security deposit. Since I moved here a year ago (no credit) and work for an American entity (no proof of salary, not the way they want it, anyway,) they did not accept my royal bloodline papers and I was left to pray really hard that God would just open the right door. Well, open the right door He did. Not only did I find my dream apartment, but the owner has been extremely cool so far and has offered to write a private contract. What does this mean? Not having to deal with "the middle man," aka real estate agencies, not having to deal with hefty security deposit, and, hopefully, lower rent. Please say a quick prayer that this is, in fact, a door God has opened and not a really terrible scam. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes. But I choose to believe God has opened the door. He has been so unbelievably faithful (and extremely HELPFUL!) until this point, how could I start doubting now?

There is a mouse in my apartment, yes, my 8th floor apartment. He is a baby and the first time we saw him he moved around like a sprinter with a bum leg. Poor thing just hobbled his way as fast as he could under the couch, along the countertops, and across the stove. Yes, I did indeed see GusGus (thanks for the name, Lacy. Personalizing him will not make his death any easier...) ON TOP of my stove one day as I went to clean up my lunch dishes. The next day, Lacy found him INSIDE the oven, cowering in the corner, paralyzed with fear. Lucky for him, Lacy and I are both paralyzed with...disgustedness...each time we see him, and it prevents us from killing said mouse with broom. Poor GusGus. We're growing to like the little guy.

Speaking of unwelcome creatures, I have officially been inducted into the "Brazilian with Street Cred" hall of fame upon having to take worm medicine. Medicine for what kind of worms, you ask? Who knows. The kind that most Brazilians recommend taking medicine for every 6 months because that's how common it is here. If you eat fruit, vegetables, or just anything, actually, you run the risk of joining the hall of fame as well. I managed to get by a year and a half without ever having wormy symptoms, but I guess since they knew that I'm now here for a while the joke was on me. I had been feeling weird for about a week, and last night Marisa looked at me and said "Cris, I think you have worms." I bought the chewable tablet at the pharmacy today (that cost me all of $1.50, thank you subsidized and efficient prescription drug system) and have been told I'm in the clear. Until 6 months from now, that is. Eew.

I turned 24 last week and I feel old. I'm now in my mid-20s rather than early 20s. For some reason that's been rough on me. And by "been rough" I mean I thought "Wow...24. How did I get here that fast?" and then got distracted by something else (probably GusGus. Or the worms.) My birthday was really nice and I felt very loved by my Brazilian family. I had Mexican food for lunch (a rare treat!) and pizza for dinner, all shared with people I love. (Um...perhaps we're getting to the bottom of the worm problem...)

I'm really excited because two weeks from yesterday we will receive our first LST team of 2009. Since the primary reason I returned to Natal was to coordinate the ebb and flow of year-round LST projects at our church, I am really, really, REALLY excited to kick off the LST year. We'll have a team of 2 women from Park Plaza church in Tulsa spend 4 weeks with us, then another team of 2 women from the DFW area spend 2 weeks. Then in August we'll host two more teams from the Westover Hills church in Austin. I am so excited to meet all of these new people and introduce them to the work in Natal. It is such a fun, beautiful, encouraging place to be, and I really pray that the teams who come will be blessed by their time. I KNOW God is going to bless their efforts, so please be praying for the readers who will come to study with them!

I don't know who is out there reading, but I really hope to get back to blogging more regularly as things start picking up around here. The last month has been overwhelmed with apartment hunting, car contemplating, refrigerator shopping, etc, and I couldn't think of anything interesting to tell you. Thanks to my birthday and GusGus, we have a blog post!

Have a wonderful week!