Sunday, October 18, 2015

Greetings from Costa Rica! The Growing Stations of a Relationship.

"Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:20-21

Hola amigos, Alejandra here!
It has been almost two months since my arrival in San José, Costa Rica with my Mission partner, Katherine Snow.
Since one of my main purposes as a YASC missionary was to come build relationships with a foreign Diocese and its community, I have broken down my last few weeks in San José into something many of us know as: “The Stages of a Relationship.”


1. A T T R A C T I O N,
otherwise known as the “honeymoon period.”
(Duration: approximately 4 weeks)

Kate and I were excited to be in a new relationship with this opportunity. Naturally, we quickly fell in love with Costa Rica. As we know, when we first fall in love it is difficult for us to see our partner’s flaws. Love is a chemistry; chemicals are released in our brain that sends our heart thumping, it allows us to see the world through rose-colored sunglasses (think Joe Biden). It’s an addiction, except this one is legal and meant to serve the greater GO[O]D.

We were immersed in a new culture, language, routine, job, life. The organization of our work seemed to be coming together, people were friendly, we were familiarizing ourselves with the transportation system, and we were making friends. "Pura Vida" as the Costa Ricans say, meaning "Pure Life." This popular expression described Costa Rica perfectly the first few weeks we were here.

What I fell in love with the most was work. After spending the first week getting adjusted to our new homes, Kate and I quickly began working at two schools established by the Diocese of Costa Rica. These schools, called Hogar Escuela, are located in two of San José's most impoverished neighborhoods. This Ministry serves the children of these communities; providing them with resources and more importantly, an education. The goal is to teach these children the skills and values necessary to surpass poverty and excel as a child of God.

Kate and I's p u r p o s e at Hogar Escuela is to teach students the fundamental English skills needed in order to continue their journey to learn a new language and be able to excel as students. It is proven that being bilingual is not only a great benefit in today's globalized world, but it is also a great way to exercise and strengthen the most important muscle in the human body- our brains. (Okay so the brain is actually an organ but by exercising it, you can help it grow and strengthen, like a muscle.)

Being able to speak more than one language makes an individual overall more intelligent. What I mean by this is that being able to speak two languages gives an individual the ability think in two languages, giving the brain the capability to reason in multiple ways. Being bilingual strengthens the brain’s "executive function," making it easier to direct plans, solve problems, and perform mentally demanding tasks. Coming up with a solution to a problem, question, thought, and idea become easier.

By strengthening their minds, the student's at Hogar Escuela will be able to excel in school as a whole, therefore giving them the skills, confidence, and motivation needed to continue an education after high school. This is the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica's vision for their Hogar Escuela Ministry, they realize the importance of educating their communities.

The fact that they had so much faith in Kate and I to allow us to take on such an important job, humbles me. That is the reason why we are so proud to be in Costa Rica, and more importantly, why we work so hard to make sure that our students receive the best English as a Second Language education possible.

Our g o a l on the other hand is not only to teach our students basic English skills, but to demonstrate Christian values by being the most authentic selves we can possibly be. Both, by incorporating Scripture and Bible study into our English lessons and by leading by example, Kate and I plan to teach our students what it means to be a follower of Christ and a missionary of God.

Having something so clearly display God's powers makes our job's not only easier, but enjoyable. The first few weeks of teaching were smooth, our introductory lessons went well and the kids seemed to be excited about having two new teachers at their school. Students were receptive and when they weren't Kate and I were able to quickly come up with a solution to some classroom management hurdles we encountered. We also got comfortable with our schedule and began learning all of the kid's names.

These first few weeks were easy to tackle because of the high we were feeling from everything that seemed to be happening at once. We were so easily able to see God's omnipotent work.


2. P O W E R  S T R U G G L E,
otherwise known as “reality.”
(Duration: approximately 2 weeks)

It is during this stage that most divorce happens. This is when finding similarities gets harder and harder and differences become the center of focus. It is during this part that most relationships either:
* break up or
* survive
Breaking up at this point would be so much easier. Packing our things and turning around running would have been the simple way out. But we know this opportunity is part of our journey. We know that surviving and getting through this hardship is the essence of s a c r i f i c e and c o m p r o m i s e.

The blessing in this is that we were able to realize that it was when we lost sight of our purpose and goal when things began to get difficult.

When I stopped thinking hopefully and began thinking selfishly was when my mood and feelings altered. The honeymoon was over, everything became real and all of the sudden this was my life, my job, this house was my home, this friend was my roommate… this country was it. This is where I will be for the remainder of the year and there is no going back now.

Kate and I's food expenses became unbearable, the transportation system was now unreliable, the amount of walking we had to do was exhausting, the fact that we lived in an office and not a real home was suffocating... the light dimmed for a second, rose-colored glasses tipped off.
Not only was our living situation feeling less and less like Candy Land and more and more like Monopoly, we were learning to see the country and it's communities like natives rather than foreigners. We were able to see past the image of Costa Rica’s "Pura Vida." We learned about injustices in the communities we were working at- about how for most students the Ministry serves, the meals they receive at Hogar Escuela are the only meals they receive period; about how many of the mother's of children we teach are single and either homeless or near it because of lack of opportunities and extremely high cost of living (comparable to that in the United States!); about how the schools in the community these student's live in are rarely open and when they are it's only for half a day.

Things began to make me angry, the fact that as children of God, we not only allow such injustice but are the ones to have created it.

Here is where g r o w t h comes in…

Kate and I know we will keep returning to this painful stage over and over again throughout our year here if we don’t learn the skills necessary to navigate our issues and resolve our differences.

Problem ::=:: No Problem.
Kate and I put our thinking caps on and decided to do what we could to make sure we never lost track of our purpose and goal again. This is when we realized that our true calling was not described by those first few weeks of pure bliss and enchantment. It is through these painful experiences and the growth we will gain from it that we are able to show our discipleship. It is through the cracks that the light shines through, in the darkness that light is seen.

Now that we know what our true challenges are, we can begin to purposefully serve as missionaries.


3. S T A B I L I T Y
(Status: in process)

This is where the thrill of being in love returns, even deeper and stronger than upon meeting. This is the stage where clarity begins to form. In this stage, it finally becomes very clear that we will never, ever succeed in changing until we have given up the desire to live in constant comfort. This is the stage where we learn that it is okay for others to have a difference in opinion and views; that it is okay that the world is vastly different than what we are accustomed to the last twenty-some years. This is the stage that opens up the opportunity to set clear boundaries in order to learn how to love, treat, and respect one another and our Mission.

Never forgetting our purpose and goal will be crucial these next few months as I continue to serve in this Ministry.

How will I do so?
I recently received an email from a parishioner at a parish I had the opportunity to preach at this past summer. In it it said, “What can I do to help? …  I wish I had your courage and faith.”
This got me thinking… I began to think not only about courage and faith but about how I can involve those whom might not be able to physically be here into my Ministry. As Episcopalians, during a confirmation, the congregation replies to a number of questions by saying, “I can with God’s help.” I’d like to add something to that…

“I can, with the help of God and the help of God’s community.” Truth of the matter is that we ALL have the courage and faith it takes to make a difference in the world we have been so blessed to live in.

I am currently working on putting together a Request for Guidance to send back home.
I cannot do this alone nor do I wish to. I could not have built the courage and faith to come here alone, I could not have fundraised what I needed to make this possible alone, and now that I'm here, I can not continue to serve my calling to God alone. I need  your courage and faith.

I know this, therefore I am doing everything possible to make sure I include everyone back home help make sure Hogar Escuela and the Diocese of Costa Rica succeed.

This is the third stage. This is just as crucial as the first two. This is the one after my eyes have been opened, where work on self-growth begins. I must put together what I can in order to not only create stability so I can effectively communicate with my team here and at home, but grow closer to interdependence- with the countries, Dioceses, communities, and most importantly, you- God's children.


4. R E C O N C I L I A T I O N,
otherwise known as “communication.”
(Status: next in process)

Once the Request of Guidance is complete and out, communication will flourish. This is the stage where after weathering the most difficult part of the relationship, we can accept the other for who and what they are and still feel a connection. This is where those involved in the relationship can reconcile and learn to accept one another in the commitment they have made. Differences now become strengths.

I am excited for this next stage in my calling to this Ministry. I don't know how long this will last or the trials and tribulations I will be placed on by God, but I am excited and ready to take on the challenge.

I ask for your prayers these next few weeks, as I continue to g r o w as an individual into this position I seem to have been assigned to. I ask that you mediate on your willingness and able to join me in this Ministry as I work with the community of Barrio Cuba and Heredia in San José, Costa Rica.

Courage is defined as the "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty" by Webster's Dictionary. Matter of fact, a synonym for c o u r a g e is "heart." Thinking about the email I received about  “having the courage” to do what I do, I am reminded that the truth is we ALL do have that courage. We have it because we have f a i t h and l o v e in God.


5. I N T E R D E P E N D E N C E,
otherwise known as “ commitment & L O V E.”
(Status: next in process)

This is where those involved in the relationship become O N E, this is the final stage. This is where everyone feels accepted and comfortable being together. This is where exploration into new opportunities and fulfillment happens. This is the stage where a T E A M is built and the relationship becomes a gift to the world. Projects will become shared creative work intended to contribute to the outside world. The lessons learned from the previous four stages are retained and used to move forward in growth and most importantly, e d i f i c a t i o n.

This is our true goal while in Costa Rica. It has been a little past six weeks but Kate and I feel ourselves getting closer and closer to this interdependence and L O V E everyday.

As long or as challenging as some days may seem, I still find it difficult to fall asleep on certain nights in anticipation of the following day. Knowing that tomorrow is another opportunity to be better than I was today and to do more to impact the community and children in which I'm working with.


Thank you again for your support, none of this would have been possible without you.

+ God bless,
Alejandra Garcia
San José, Costa Rica

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Alejandra Flex Bangle™ Stack to help fundraise for my mission!

Cherne is one of my best friends who has her own line of beautiful jewelry.

In an effort to help me fundraise the $12,000 I need to be able to travel abroad as a missionary, her company, Cherne Altovise is donating HALF (that's 50%!!!) of all profits made from this beautiful bracelet set to my fund!

You can find more information about the bangle set and HER mission on her website,

Thank you so much, Cherne, for all of the support you have shown and continue to show me these last few years. 

Strong women don't tear each other down... they help build one another up! Other women are not our competition, we must choose to stand with them, not against them! If you know what ti's like to be torn down then help build others up!!!!

Here's to strong women, may we know them, may we be with them, may we raise them!


Thank you, Jesus...

When I fall, He lifts me up.
When I fail, He forgives.
When I am weak, He is strong.
When I am lost, He is the way.
When I am afraid, He is my courage.
When I stumble, He steadies me.
When I am hurt, He heals me.
When I am hungry, He feeds me.
When I face trials, He is with me.
When I face persecution, He shields me.
When I face problems, He provides for me.
When I face Death, He carries me Home.

He is everything for everybody, everywhere, every time, every way.

He is God, He is faithful.

I am His, and He is mine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hello, friends! This past Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to preach at my home parish, St. Thomas in Newark, Delaware. I ask that if you get a few minutes (or 24... LOL) you take the time to hear about my mission and what St. Thomas and its beautiful congregation mean to me! Thank you, Bob Gilley, for recording it and making it available for us to share. A special thanks goes out to Fr. Paul Gennett Jr. and Deacon Cecily Sawyer Harmon, who have been like a mother and father to me these past five years!

I am so blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing, supportive, and loving family!

Sunday, May 31, 2015 - Alejandra Garcia-Gonzalez delivering the sermon
Posted by St. Thomas's Episcopal Parish, Newark, Delaware on Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Truth

I've been wanting to write about truth lately and what it means to me but ironically have not been able to find the words.  It has been coming up in conversation, situations, thought, prayer, and reflections a lot the last week, but getting it out has been a lot harder than I imagined.

What is truth? I would ask myself, and coming up with an answer was nearly impossible.  I ask you, what is truth?... not as easy as you thought huh? ;-)

Let's begin by looking up the dictionary term:

John 8:32 (NLT) states,
"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Truth is many things to many people and consequently difficult to define in one statement.  We can view it as simply stating what is fact.  And yes, with our senses we are able to see the world but truth of the matter is that we interpret the world subjectively and therefore our truths may all be different.  Of course, some things are indeed fact; I live in the United States where we use the Dollar as a form of currency and our main language of communication is English.  But most things are not as easily classified.

The rector of my parish, Father Paul, is currently offering weekly Lenten Studies for this Lenten season and last week's passage was John 4:3-26 (NLT) (Jesus and the Woman of Samaria).  We discussed truth and how being vulnerable to others allows us to get to know people on a deeper more personal level, their true selves; just like Jesus's interaction with the Samarian woman.

During discussion I couldn't help to think about how God, Love, and Truth are all interrelated, neither is separated from the other two.  I came up with this image in my head as we were talking, I call it God's Wheel.  I kept thinking about how God is Love and Love is Truth so therefore God is Truth and Truth is Love... I know haha, my mind gets tangled up in webs like this often.  I realized that one cannot exist without the other.  For me, God is indeed Love and God (love) speaks the truth.

Let us dig a little deeper at this since I am yet to really answer the question, What is truth? I'm sure we could come up with an infinite amount of answers to what the truth truly is (see what I did there ;)) but here are the three that stuck out to me the most as I was reflecting on this:

1.  Speak the truth.  Ephesians 4:29 (MSG) states,

"Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word [is] a gift."

I love this verse, it's the wallpaper on my phone- constantly reminding me to speak only the truth and not only that but to "watch the way [I] talk,"  watch what I say... watch what I do.  Regardless your beliefs or your values you will most likely agree that we should all speak the truth. We should be faithful to others and to ourselves, we shouldn't lie to get by.

The last few years I have realized that speaking the truth is so much easier when you live the truth.  Truth is an action, things we do.  If we are honest from the very beginning we won't have to lie about what we've done.  If we don't cheat then we don't have to cover up our tracks, if we don't pretend to be something we are not then we don't have to speak falseness.

Just like almost everything else, I believe truth to begin in our thoughts then continue into actions and end with our words.  So in order to speak the truth I believe it's important to act and be the truth.  It might be difficult at first because sometimes it's much more simple doing what's not true to our hearts, to our words, and to others.  But actions always speak louder than words, especially in this case.

Speaking the truth to me also means not being afraid to say how I feel.  I believe that the only things I know to be true are my interpretations and feelings to the world around me, especially my feelings.  No one can tell you that your feelings are wrong, how could they be if that is what you feel?  Even interpretations- we might interpret things incorrectly from time to time; take things out of context, misinterpreted other's intentions, etc. but they are still your interpretations which caused feelings and emotions to stir within you
Job 32:15 (MSG) says, 

“Do you three have nothing else to say?
Of course you don’t! You’re total frauds!
Why should I wait any longer,
now that you’re stopped dead in your tracks?
I’m ready to speak my piece. That’s right!
It’s my turn—and it’s about time!
I've got a lot to say,
and I’m bursting to say it.
The pressure has built up, like lava beneath the earth.
I’m a volcano ready to blow.
I have to speak—I have no choice.
I have to say what’s on my heart,
And I’m going to say it straight—
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I was never any good at bootlicking;
my Maker would make short work of me if I started in now!”

How beautiful, "I have to say what's on my heart, And I'm going to say it strait
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."  I absolutely LOVE and ADORE that verse.  "I have to say what's on my heart, And I'm going to say it straitthe truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."  I want to repeat it over and over and over again because it's so true, it speaks to me so beautifully.

I am a very intense person when it comes to emotions and feelings (I claim it to be a result of my astrological sign- Cancer, hehe) and others, especially those whom are not as in tune with their emotions and feelings often times find it intimidating.  For a while I would hold back what I had to say and what I was feeling, but recently in the last year or so, I have been trying to speak up.  I no longer fear vulnerability, I crave it.  I want to tell people my truth, my deepest darkest feelings, I want to let them in because I want to be let in- into their hearts.  I want to help people realize that letting others in and sharing your truth is so beautiful and freeing.  If it scares people away, then so be it, but almost always they come back because I've found that deep down we all want to open up, we all want to be loved for who we truly are.  There is no right and wrong way to feel, there just is.  You feel what you feel and I believe in sharing that with those around you in order to build strong, personal, and authentic relationships. Just like the one Jesus built with the Samaritan woman!  Now of course, I think it's important to remember that there is a time and place for everything.  Taking others feelings into consideration is also important in this situation, asking ourselves if they are ready for our truth.  I'm not fearful of pushing people away if they don't like what I have to say but I also don't wish to offend anyone.

2. Being authentically myself. This means being myself no matter what.  Accepting that I am a child of God and He has created me this way.  Accepting all of my flaws and my imperfections just as easily as I have accepted everything beautiful I have to offer.  I have written on this topic a couple different times, you can find links to them here and here to get a better idea of what I mean by this.  I don't believe in rights and wrongs so I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to be.  You just are.  You are who you are, and that's it.  If you are authentically yourself, nothing else matters because you are being true and truth is love and love is God.

3. Being true to others.  Ahhh, here's where I go back to the first one.  I believe that speaking the truth is a result of being the truth. Being authentically yourself will allow others to be authentic with you.  Others will see that you are a reflection of God's love and light and that alone will help them build the confidence to be authentically themselves, to be and speak the truth.  It's a chain reaction.  We have to remember to love others for who they are, for everything that makes them them.  We cannot ask for acceptance without accepting others.  There's a quote I love, "before you judge me, take a good look at yourself."  It is sooooo hard sometimes but I really try not to judge others.  Everyone is fighting their own battle and we don't always know about the journey they are on.  All we can do is accept them for the mere fact that they are human because we're human, isn't that enough?

Everyday I try to be authentically myself, I try to live a life I want to live and be a person I love.  I try to do this by becoming incarnate of truth.  Because "the truth [has] set me free!"

So I ask you, are you incarnate of truth?  How?  If not, would you like to be? 

+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +  +

I want to dedicate this post to one of my really good friends, Jacob Capin.  1) He inspired me to write about this through a series of conversations we had a couple nights ago and 2) he is just amazing in every which way... no really, every which way.  So thank you Jacob, for helping me through my writer's block and for being one of the greatest friends I've ever had.  I love you and you continue to be an inspiration to me.
Oh and just because I want to show him off (and he deserves all the praise)... he is currently training for an OLYMPIC TRIATHLON while working full time on his SECOND doctorate degree at UDel! Whaaatttt!!! Haha best of luck to you Jacob, I love being your cheerleader!  Stay true, you are the light.

Monday, March 9, 2015

My Body Is A Temple

My body is a temple and I WORSHIP it baby! Does that make me sound conceited, arrogant, immodest? Good- because I do have an excessively favorable opinion of my body, of my Spirit, of my Soul... we all should!

"19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

Our bodies are gifts from God, we should treat them as such.  We should cherish them and love them and CARE for them.  By loving God, I promise to love myself and those around me.  And by promising to love myself, I promise to take care of my Mind, my Body, and my Spirit in order to nourish my God-given Soul.  I love the words, "God bought you with a high price.  So you must honor God with your body."  It makes me priceless, rare, oh-so valuable.

This means several things to me:

1) I must learn to love myself for who I am, all of the beauty I have to offer and all of my imperfections (because they are beautiful too).  God made me this way, He worked long and hard, He paid a high price, for me to be this way.  Every corner, every pore, every wrinkle, every pimple, my dark skin, EVERYTHING... are gifts from God; He molded with love.

2) I must take care of my body... did everyone get that... I must TAKE CARE of my body.  I must nurture, and love it, I must honor God with [my] body.  I must nourish my body with food that will keep it healthy.  I must exercise (this includes my mind) in order for it to be strong.  I must practice good self-care and  and hygiene.  I must get sufficient sleep so it is well rested and energized.  I must learn to listen to it in order to give it what it needs, this also means slowing down when I have to.

3) I must respect my body.  This is important to me because for a long time I didn't do this, I didn't love and honor myself enough to.  This means that I don't self-harm in regards to drinking and smoking as well as sexual and other physical activities.  This also means I must demand respect from others and if they are unwilling to honor me, then I am unwilling to have them in my life.

4) I must love and respect others.  How can I demand respect and love without reciprocating the honor?  We hear in the Bible over and over, "love your neighbor as yourself."  It's not called the Golden Rule for nothing.  Treat others the way you wish to be treated.  Watch your words and watch your actions.  Love others for who they are, their perfections and imperfections and never judge a book by it's cover.  Remember, we are all children of God. (Gosh this one was full of clichés... but their clichés for a reason, right?)

Now please, don't get me wrong, it took me a loooong time for me to feel the way I do about my body.  I used to be teased all into college about my "beauty mark" (thanks mom for making me call it that), my "chicken legs," my "acne", my "nose", my "hairy arms," etc..  Who's to define beauty?  Society?  Hah!  Yeah right if I'm going to let a bunch of female and male chauvinist companies with a one track mind (--> $$$) tell me what I should look like in order to be and  feel beautiful!  For the longest time I would allow other's opinions of me to determine how I felt about myself.  Little did I know, their opinions were only a mere reflection of their own insecurities... simply taking it out on others.  And to be honest, I still have moments of unclarity and moments when I don't like what or who I see in the mirror, and that's okay it's normal.  The important thing is being able to move forward, pray and ask God for whatever confidence, clarity, and strength you need in order to get through it.  And most importantly, forgive others when they hurt you and always forgive yourself... after all, we're human, isn't that enough?  

I am a Goddess and my Body is my temple.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Comfort in Discomfort

The irony. Trying to find comfort in the uncomfortable. What do I mean?

1 Corinthians 1:25 states,
"God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."

Jesus Christ always chose discomfort over comfort, He went against everything the people of His time knew... all for the love and faith in God. 

Think about all of the times someone or something has rubbed up against your beliefs and your values, it does one of two things. It either forces you to stand strong for what you believe in, or it makes you question what you have believed in your entire life. Neither should scare us, neither is better or worse than the other. Both are needed in order to grow as a person. Iron sharpens iron, right? If we stand stand strong for what we believe in then we know it's part of our character and who we are, if it makes us question then we know there's an opportunity to learn something new, and nothing bad ever comes from expanding our mind to new things. 

Honestly, I prefer the latter. I love being challenged, I love feeling uncomfortable, I truly do find comfort in that. Maybe not in the actual moment I'm being questioned but upon reflection I always tend to realize something new about myself and the world around me. It has been the most difficult and uncomfortable things in life that have helped me grow the most. 

So next time someone challenges you, questions you, stand up for yourself and allow your mind to open to new possibility and ideas. Don't be close minded and don't fear discomfort. Jesus didn't, and when He did He seeked God for guidance and strength.  God never failed Him and He won't fail you if you allow Him into your heart.