Monday, November 27, 2017

One More Year: A short story about God's call to us and how to answer

Surprise! On December 12th,  I'll be returning to San Jose to serve the Diocese of Costa Rica.
I will be helping with of the church's newest projects to help at-risk youth in impoverished communities. They are building a second floor on top of one of the Hogar Escuela buildings, and it will be used as a Teen Center during the week (for the youth who age out of the Hogar Escuela program), and will be a Vocational Training Center on the weekends (for the mothers of the children to learn new skills). I am beyond grateful to the Diocese of Costa Rica for having faith in me and helping me to answer God's call in their community.

I've been feeling a calling to international mission for a long time in my life, and God's timing was finally right for me to serve. This past year in Costa Rica was full of challenges and from those challenges came incredible growth spiritually, mentally, and physically. Before the year began, I felt excited by the idea of serving a second year with the Young Adult Service Corps. As the months went on, the call to stay another year got stronger. I had soo many days where I was scared I was interpreting God's voice all wrong. I would ask myself "am I just feeling this way because it's selfish?" "How do I know it's God's voice telling me to serve and not something else?" And those were the days where I would pray. It's nothing revolutionary, but it was the only way I knew how to keep myself in tune with what God wanted me to do. I would get my heart in tune with listening, and every time I did, I heard the same thing: "Stay." And when I officially made the decision and spoke with Bishop Monterroso, I felt the peace that passes all understanding running through my body. I knew that it's my life's mission to follow that peace and to cultivate it in my life.
Or more simply "go where the peace is." So that's what I'm doing 😌

Next step is fundraising! I only have to raise $8,000 this year as compared to $10,000 the year before to help cover my plane tickets, health insurance, and monthly stipend. I will be holding a fundraising lunch after the 10:30 service at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour. We will be serving authentic Costa Rican food and have a presentation about the Diocese of Costa and my experiences this past year. Along with never-before-seen pictures and videos of  The World's Most Adorable Children (because I'm not allowed to post them on social media).

I am so thankful for everyone who helped me to achieve my goal and to answer God's call, and I know that this year will be no different.

Isaiah 43

Sunday, May 21, 2017

8 months (yesterday) t-minus 3 months 27 days(ish)

You know the parable of the two sons, and the one son says he’s not going to help his father in the field but then does, and the other son says he will but doesn’t end up helping? And the first son is the more righteous?

Well greetings from Costa Rica from son #2. I’m so so sorry for not keeping everyone updated even though I said that I would. I promise I will do my best to write more (hopefully a promise I can keep hahah).

What a crazy few months it has been here!! It’s the whole cliché “Time is flying by” “It’ll be over before you know it” type of thing right now. It truly feels as if February ended and May began.

It's been so difficult to force myself to sit and blog. Everyday on the bus, Alexa and I say "we need to blog today." But every time I sat down to write a blog post, I would say “no I’m not in the right mindset”, “I really should clean my room”, “or I’m having too difficult of a time right now” and kept making excuses that I would blog when I had all of my ducks in a row.

But after the past three (four?) months, I was forced to come to the conclusion that I my ducks are nowhere to be found, much less in a row, and I should blog anyways (it’s currently 10:45 on a Sunday night with laundry on my bed and in the dryer haha). Anyways….

Story timeee!

This past month, we’ve started running low on energy for planning lessons. It’s been really hard to sit and focus and come up with new material (especially since neither one of us are trained teachers). It’s been difficult for so many reasons, sometimes we feel unappreciated by the children or other teachers there. Other days, we’ve sat with coffee and our computers trying so hard to come up with something, and nothing happens. Or we’ve just felt too exhausted to pull ourselves together. But last week, Alexa had a really great idea (to incorporate acting into our lessons about public servants). Almost every kid enjoyed it. The presentations were incredibly adorable, and they really really seemed to learn the words. It was a week that helped rejuvenate my mission here. I know that the months that follow are still going to be filled with more low moments, but I am so excited to have a lot more of those incredible ones.

I was talking to some children in the morning (3-5 year olds), and I had to go help in the lunchroom so I said “me voy, caio para siempre”(“I’m going, goodbye forever”) ((obviously joking)) and one of them goes “noo teacher! Te quierooooo” (no teacher! I love youuuuu) and jumped onto me and knocked me over and smothered my cheeks with kisses. It made my whole week/month/year/life.
“I have never been given the finger that much in my life, much less in one day by a 4 year old” –an actual quote by The Alexa Henault™ after spending 20 minutes chasing down a child who clearly didn’t want to be caught.

Well I celebrated my 23rd birthday March 5th, and was showered in love by the mission group that was here and by my boss and especially my roommates. Even though on my actual birthday, I was lying in bed completely sick and miserable and unable to eat (due to actual sickness and not typical 20-something birthday fun haha). I was soo afraid of feeling lonely on my birthday, since loneliness is something I’ve had to get used to here. But loneliness was the last thing I felt (mostly because I was sleeping and wanting only to be alone). Ok but seriously, I have never felt less lonely than I did on my birthday. I missed being able to spend time with my family and my community back home, but I got to spend it with the new communities I’ve been cultivating here that were not even yet 6 months old. It was very special to see how far those relationships have come in such a short amount of time.

Yesterday marked 8 months of being here. This past month, I’ve had dreams of having a tooth fall out. These dreams (usually nightmares haha) typically mean that you’re going through a big life change. Which I have been.  Last night, I had the same dream, and it really stuck out to me. I was eating something, and a tooth I had crumbled and fell out of my mouth. I kept part of it to reattach it and ran to find my mom. She shrugged like it was normal, and we walked together to the dentist. Then I woke up. Anyone else’s guess is probably as good as mine, but moral of my dream is that my mom is always there to help me make these choices (and always gives the best advice). And honestly, I am dealing with a lot of changes that I have just made or am about to make. I also get to see my lovely mother (and sister + co. haha) in a little more than a week. So with her guidance, hopefully I will have some exciting news soon c: 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feliz año! (y 25 dias..)

I know I haven’t been posting anywhere near as much as I’m supposed to, and I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to start writing down little snippets of things that happen and posting (hopefully) a mini blogpost every week. I’m aiming to have each one be fairly short but still thoughtful and reflective. But for this post, I’m just going to share a few other silly and meaningful stories that help encapsulate these past two months.

1. Last week, the day before I was about to leave to take a short trip to Panama, I was monitoring la siesta (the midday nap that every kid regardless of age takes). I’m trying to get through it as painlessly as possible, but there was one group of girls (6-7 years old) who would not go to sleep. My patience had been at an all-time low that entire week, but I wasn’t really doing a whole lot (at least spiritually) to fix it.
So these girls.. there were 7 of them, and each one just HAD to go get water because they had “MUCHA sed” and were going “a MORIR” if they couldn’t go get water. And I usually am fairly against arbitrarily not allowing kids to go get water or go to the bathroom because I always hated when teachers did that. Yet here I am, about to become my teachers (which, to be honest, has been happening already, but that’s another blog post). So I stopped allowing them to leave the classroom, grabbed what what looked like a dry erase marker out of the drawer, and one-by-one proceeded to write each girl’s name on the brand new whiteboard (when they would talk or ask me to "hacer caquita"). I told them that I would erase their names if they were quiet for 5 minutes, or put another strike next to their name if they talked. I was still pretty steamed because of how bad they were acting, but to make a good example out of the one girl who started to shape up, I went to erase her name. However, I cannot begin to describe the feeling of horror when I went to swipe my hand over sweet little Sarai’s name, and it didn’t immediately come off on my palm. I ran to the desk and read the label and it read  “mercador permanente”. Now I haven’t mastered the Spanish language, but I knew what that meant without a dictionary. My heartbeat became audible, my hands started sweating, and my brain could not seem to recall those 10,000 “life hack” buzzfeed videos that I had spent hours on facebook watching while thinking “wow this is so helpful, I learned so much.” I honestly went from feeling slightly self-important to being on the verge of tears faster than you can say “dios mio”. I was convinced that I was going to have to buy another whiteboard or have to stare at my ugly mistake every day until they bought a new one.
For my first attempt at removing the marker, I tried using toilet paper with soap and water, and that made absolutely no different. I went from being on the verge of tears to completely hopeless. I started to try and translate "I screwed up and I'm so sorry please don't send me home" to Spanish and reciting Hail Mary's in my head. I can’t really explain what happened next, but I had one of those weird feelings (you know those little God things), and I looked over at the desk and was like "ok relax you can do this, you can figure this out". I opened the desk drawer, and there it was: a brand new eraser. I snagged it and ran to the board and started erasing. Slowly but surely, line by line, the names began to come off. It took approximately 20 minutes of erasing, one-third of this poor eraser’s life, and an express ticket to carpal tunnel syndrome to get the 7 names off the board. All the while, those seven girls just stared, silently, probably thirstily (if that’s even a word), and intrigued nonetheless. One of them fell asleep, the others were quiet and stopped bugging me (and each other) for the rest of the naptime.
I still haven’t really processed what kind of lesson I was supposed to learn from that, but I can definitely say it was a nice reminder that God’s got my back.
2. Today a little boy (he’s honestly a mini man) sneezed directly into my mouth and then laughed in my face.

3. Another girl planted a kiss right on my mouth in the middle of a conversation with a different kid.

4. I taught the bishop how to say “fart” last week.

5. When I went to church last week, I took an uber. The week before had been challenging in almost every way possible. So the uber and I were chatting, and I told him I was a missionary, which usually sends people either to not want to talk anymore or they talk about God. Both are fine, but this uber did neither. He just looked at me with this almost child-like grin, pointed to his radio and turned up the volume, and we drove the rest of the way listening to Christian music in Spanish. I was never really the *biggest* fan of Christian music back home, in that I enjoyed it, but didn't downloaded it onto my spotify account. I can't even remember what song was playing, but I had to turn away because I started crying. I don't know if it was from homesickness or just how much I needed to hear the message of the song or some other combination of the two along with so many other feelings, but wow. I then proceeded to go to church and at the end of the service, while we were praying the post-communion prayer, I started crying again. I don't know what was causing me to be so overwhelmed, but there I was, in our small little church, digesting the body and blood of Jesus, and just overcome with emotion. 
The only time that I can really remember this happening to me was when I was on my way to the discernment retreat for YASC. I had showed up in NYC by myself, my dog had just given birth, I lost my debit card, I had graduated college and didn't know for sure what my next step would be, it was Ash Wednesday, and the week after I would be leading my Vocare weekend, and every rude person in the whole city had avoided eye contact with me. I stumbled upon a church after I had walked a mile on my quest to find NY's best milkshake, and I went inside, luggage and all, sat in the sanctuary (just me and the priest), and I cried. It was a really special moment, and in that moment,  I felt spiritually rejuvenated a ready for the next step. I still had a lot of work to do to get there and faced a little more than my share of struggle after that, but I didn't feel alone or lost in those struggles. And I think that's what my experience last week was meant to be. I felt renewed, but I definitely limped through the next few days, but I didn't limp by myself. And that made all the difference *

*see permanent maker meets whiteboard meets eraser story at the top haha

If you've made it this far, just know I appreciate you so so much. Thank you for keeping up with my journey and for your prayers. You're helping me more than you know!

Paz y bendiciones!!