Sunday, March 24, 2013


I began writing Joy, Love and Work two years ago as a way to get into the discipline of writing regularly. I've known for a while that I have at least one book inside me that needs to get written but I struggle with routine and thus it could have stayed in forever had I not started cultivating some regular writing habits.

Last September I took a week off work and retreated 'up north' to a friends cabin to get the first draft of my book written, one week and 36,000 words later the draft was complete and much has happened since.

But book publishing seems to be a vast maze of complexity and as my book is 'non-traditional' (not a shocker for you I know!) the complexity seems even more complex. Will I ever get this book finished, published and into the land of the living???

And here's where the unfaithful bit comes in...sometimes I just hanker over that days of writing a cute little blog, just a few hundred words here and there - perhaps with a picture or some other illustration thrown in for good measure as opposed to trying to wrestle a whole book in existence which whilst no doubt will set the entire world of publishing alight (ha!) is proving to be a bit of a trial.

I'm sorry Joy, Love and Work that I've forsaken you for this time and energy hungry alternative. You helped me hone my craft and develop mad skills and now I've just left you languishing out here on the interweb without a second thought. Forgive me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Old love, new rendezvous...

Oh My!

I don't remember my first encounter with fashion but it has something to do with my Grandma (Smith) who lived with us when I was growing up and was an icon in every sense. Everything about her was put together, from her bright silver hair to her lavender scented clothes. She was something else. Strong. Opinionated. Outspoken. Gracious & Generous.

Her name was Alice. My name is Alison.

We're very different in many ways and very similar in others, namely we know a good entrance when we see one and we love clothes; Alice was tucked (put together) I'm un-tucked (not put together) and it really doesn't matter very much.

Grandma (Smith) & Nana (Howard) both made lovely things. Grandma knitted and Nana sewed and embroidered, it was a very important part of their lives as women, wives and mothers during both the first and second world wars.

As I was growing up they both made lovely clothes for my baby doll (Jane) and my Sindy doll (Sindy!), Mum (Lilibo) did too, and in fact Mum packed my Sindy wearing some of her very best outfits in her 'Sindy-Wardrobe' and sent them along with all my other belongings across the Atlantic to meet me (by then aged 30-and-a-half) in Minneapolis when I decided that this was where I wanted to live (at least for now).

I loved making clothes. Going to 'Sew Easy' the fabric shop in Ware, buying fabric and a pattern and spending hours sewing, pressing and finishing in what used to be Grandma's sitting room. How fitting.

My speciality was evening and bridal wear. Never one for an understated garment and at the period when Lady Diana was in her heyday - it was a wonderful time to grow up as a budding fashionista. I was commissioned to design and make a wedding dress as a 14 year old, I did it and it was lovely.

Years past, I attended the London College of Fashion where I loved the fashion bit, but knew something was missing...and years later here I am in America, working in Human Resources in a The Best Coffee Company on the Planet...and a member of PINTEREST.

Where once again my love of fashion has been ignited, the looks, colours, shapes and textures are awesome. It feels like coming home.

In my not-very-humble opinion, people are too literal with fashion. They wrongly believe that if you like it you should wear it and I don't see it like that at all. Fashion is a deeply spectacular adventure into art. Art you could wear, but sometimes (perhaps even often) someone else should wear it in order to provide the perfect canvas for a piece of wearable art.

 Thank you Pinterest.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time Flies

Happy Almost-Spring Fabulous Ones!

I can't quite believe that exactly a month ago I woke up at 2am and headed to Wooddale where at 3am we left on our Guatemalan adventure; it was my first time ever on an American school bus (SUPER EXCITING!) and thus even at that early hour i was compelled to take my first trip picture!!

Over the last few weeks we've been back from Guatemala photo sharing has been a big thing for our team - thank goodness for facebook :-) Each person's pictures show their unique perspective of our trip, everyone saw things that no one else did and so the combined story told by our pictures is fairly epic. One of our team members Myron is a photographer, and he faithfully recorded most of what went on especially the work of the different ministry teams as we went out an 'did our thing' around Lake Atitlan. His pictures are wonderful and really capture the spirit and essence of our trip, click here to see them
(scroll down the page to the Guatemala 2012 folder which includes 14 galleries of fab photos!)

Lots of you have asked me what impact Guatemala has had on me and whilst i'm a fairly slow processor, a few things are clear...

1. I'm amazed how God worked in the hearts of complete strangers and formed them together into a team that made huge efforts and did extraordinary things for him. To us it was normal, to others not so much.

2. I'm thankful, embarrassed and humbled by 'how good i have it'...this tension gives me pause when i find myself falling back into the western materialistic ways of thinking (yes even in the face of Anthropologie!)

3. I have a different perspective on what's important and whats not. Just last week my colleague Barrrrb and I experienced something which previously would have sent me into a downward spiral, but with my new perspective it was just not worth bothering about. I need to save my energy for things that ARE worth bothering about.

4. I'm so very grateful to YOU for being such amazing supporters and to Bill, Steve and Susan our trip leaders, which gets me back to point 1 about how God works in our hearts to bring us together to do his work. YEAH GOD!.

So what happens next?

COME AND BE APPRECIATED! by the entire Guatemala team at a SUPPORTER APPRECIATION EVENT on Sunday April 1st between 6:30-8pm at the Wooddale Church Eden Prairie campus, in the Chapel  we would love, love, love to see you all to share more photos, tell you about our adventures and generally have fun with all the folks who helped us physically, monetarily and spiritually :-)

Time has flown again, and i look forward to the time when i get to see you - hopefully very soon.

BEST Blessings


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Wow! Where do I even start to tell you about the extraordinary trip I had the privilege to take part in? So many sights, sounds and experiences that it's all a bit of a blur right now so what I'll do is to take one of the Bible verses we used in our leadership retreats for the Pastors and try to give you a little insight that way...

Finally, brothers (and sisters!) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent of praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Whatever is true...
I love Guatemala, that much is true. It's an amazing country and is often called 'the land of eternal spring' because of the wonderful temperate climate which produces a landscape naturally bursting with flowers and fruit. Everything about Guatemala is about contrast - poverty and wealth, beauty and ugliness, fragrance of flowers and rotting waste, hard work and corruption. They make up the fabric of life and remind me of how contrasting my life is and how I need God's help to balance and live a life that brings him most glory.

Lake Atitlan

 Women washing clothes in Lake Atitlan

Whatever is noble...
For me there's nothing more humbling than working in the name of our mighty, glorious and noble God. It was such an honor to serve on a team with others who felt the same way and many of whom went through enormous personal sacrifice to Make God Look Good through their work on this trip. The team helped build five houses, cleaned, extracted and fluoride treated hundreds of teeth, diagnosed and treated illnesses, prayed, laughed and cried with widows and orphans, installed and refreshed water purification units in churches and schools, listened and supported recovering alcoholics, taught English, played with kids, angst'd with teens and refreshed weary Pastors. It was good hard work for our noble God.

One of the houses we helped build amongst the coffee trees

The lovely Connie, one of our House Visiting Heroes packing a gift of bread, chocolate and milk powder to take to each home.

Whatever is right...
Being in Guatemala, working with Pastors and leaders, making wonderful new Christian friends and helping and encouraging where I could were all 'right' for me; although the experience was all new, in many ways it felt like coming home. I've noticed before that God is very lavish in bestowing that home-coming feeling when things are right.

Some of my new Guatemalan girl-friends.

Whatever is pure...
We had a whole load of kids on our trip from the Marvelous Minzi (3ft and bursting with life) right up to Peachy Paul (6ft and soon to become a Marine) they bought so much unbridled joy, energy, enthusiasm and pure love to our trip. They formed two ministries - the kids went into schools and played games with the Guatemalan kids, telling them about their God and Jesus and, well, just being kids! Many of the kids on the team attend Spanish immersion schools in the USA so their language is flawless, but my guess is that even without the language, they would have had no trouble at all connecting with others because they appear to go 'heart first' and that tends to overcome all other barriers. The teens worked with a Guatemalan youth worker (the FABULOUS Betty) to develop a drama which they presented to an enormous group of Guatemalan teens at one of the large churches in San Pedro on Wednesday evening. They talked about being a Christian teen and what that means, what impact it has on relationships, internet usage and lots more. 

 A gaggle of teenageness (sorry about the ridiculous camera angle!)

Whatever is lovely...
The trip we were on was the 18th year that Wooddale church has worked in Guatemala with the association of Baptist Churches around Lake Atitlan and as a result the depth and strength of relationships between the team members and the people they serve is just lovely. Trust, willingness to work hard, be flexible and take risks are just some of the benefits that have accrued over time and they have yielded significant positive effects in the lives of everyone concerned. You can imagine that a trip of the scale and complexity of this one requires infinite planning, coordination and execution that is second to none. In addition to the details (ARGHHH!) the cultural and linguistic differences are extreme and so we partner with Jaime Lopez who leads the SEPAL organization (Serving Pastors And Leaders) in Guatemala. It's tricky to explain the complexity of what Jaime does but really I'd describe him as an International Christian Logistics Superhero and this is from a woman who knows a bit about leaders! At any given time Jaime is on the phone with incoming groups, on the ground with current groups, translating, praying, smoothing out relationships between different church denominations, working with the government,  customs and police authorities, driving buses through 4WD bandit-ridden roads and all this while keeping an eye on his lovely young Daughter Melissa. Truly I don't know how he does it, but I know for certain that without his efforts many missions trips plunge from lovely to horrific in a matter of minutes.

Pastor Issac and The Lovely Jaime

Whatever is admirable...
The team I was part of was one of the smallest of the ministry teams, made up of Ed, Candy, Susan, me and of course supported by the lovely Jaime. I TRULY admire Ed & Candy. They both had busy and fulfilling careers - Ed as a Pastor and then a businessman and Candy as a Spanish teacher. Once they retired they decided to start traveling the world, joining missions trips and encouraging Christian leaders across the globe, and my! what an amazing job they do. Candy has MS and walks with great difficulty assisted by her trusty 'wheels' however any impediments she has are completely overcome by her dogged determination to love and serve others, she traverses terrain that many able bodied folks would find challenging and never, ever, ever complains. Her obvious heroism is matched by a wicked wit and thus she is an enormous hit with everyone she meets especially the Pastors. Ed is SO deep and SO wise it's actually a bit scary! His knowledge of the Bible and heart for others makes him a wonderful man of God, he is able to rapidly pray for and minister to others with no preparation or advance warning and he has a wonderful resonant voice which is impactful whether he is speaking or singing. He brings a quiet calm everywhere he goes. I have no idea how I got so blessed to spend the week in the presence of this wonderful couple but will be eternally grateful that I did.

 Candy giving a little peanut a ride on her 'wheels'

 The Ed-inator

If anything is excellent or praiseworthy...
Being a Pastor anywhere is hard work, but being a Pastor in Guatemala is something else entirely. These men are shepherds of  huge flocks that live in conditions that few in the first world could even imagine, with no discernible way-out and few resources to assist them; and yet these Pastors are focused, compassionate, wise and joyful servants of God. I had the opportunity to do three home visits on Friday to members of two of the churches we were serving and it was truly horrific. The despair, grief, sadness, poverty, filth and squalor that are commonplace in the towns we worked in were barely conscionable to me and I was utterly exhausted at the end of my pathetic three hour visit. But these are the conditions that the Pastors serve in every day and they do great work instilling the love of God, hope of salvation and practical help wherever they are able. They are my heroes.

Pastors & Deacons from San Lucas

Once again THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all you have done and will continue to do to love God by supporting me and the people of Guatemala. 

Best Blessings, Love and Enormous Gratitude.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Almost There!

Happy Sunday Fabulous Ones!

Thanks again for all your encouragement, support AND extra donations that arrived this week - YOU CHAPS ROCK EVEN MORE!

Here's the whole team! Sorry about the miniature photo, i could'nt work out how to enlarge it :-(

This week has been all about packing, final preparation and working out what we may have forgotten earlier! I also got to spend more time with the fabulous Ed & Candy Nelson to develop the leadership retreats. We've designed what we hope will be great, uplifting events for the Pastors and Deacons entitled The Profoundly Refreshing Retreat or PRR for short! It will include bible readings, worship songs, discussion, lunch, a workshop, prayer and a closing devotional from the lovely Ed. I'm excited just thinking about it and so hope it truly blesses the folks we are sent to serve.

We drop our bags off at church on 7pm Friday 17th and then have to be back at church at 3am on Saturday 18th to board the bus for the airport! I'm thinking sleep may be a short lived thing on Friday night! We'll spend a night in Guatemala City and then on Sunday 19th head off to Lake Atitlan which is where we will spend the rest of the week - woooo hoooo!

Here's where we'll be... 

Many of you have asked what you can do to support us while we're gone and the simple answer is to pray! To assist you here is our supporters prayer guide...

Firstly please keep all our ministries in your prayers this week...

+ Construction + Medical & Dental + Teaching + Teens & Children's + Leadership Training + Water Filtration + Water Education + Computer Skills Development +  Men & Women's One to One 

Next here's how you can pray each day...

Saturday 18th February
+ Pray for safe travels particularly for our team members coming from different parts of the country. Pray that all goes well as we process through customs (with all you wonderful donated items and computers)

Sunday 19th February
+ Pray for continued fellowship and team building as we start our on-site preparations for our week of ministry. Pray that God will be preparing our hearts to touch those we serve.

Monday 20th February
- Pray that God would continue to guide us as we begin our work and that he would provide us with patience and peace as things may not go as 'we' had planned.
- Pray for safety in our travels around the lake
- Pray as we serve in the villages of Panajachel and Santa Clara

Tuesday 21st February
+ Pray that God would open our eyes so we can see how he is working through the ministries that we are part of and that he will help us keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
+ Pray as we serve in the villages of Chakaya, Tzan Chaj and Santiago.

Wednesday 22nd February
+ Praise to God as he guides us through the halfway point of our trip. We are thankful for everything he is revealing to us and the relationships he is building.
+ Pray as we serve in the village of San Lucas.

Thursday 23rd February
+ Pray for continued health and strength as we near the end of our week of serving.
+ Pray for the Pastors around the lake and their churches, Pray that God would continue to bless and encourage them and their families.
+ Pray for a wonderful God-filled evening of praise and worship as we gather together with the churches to celebrate tonight.
+ Pray as we serve in the village of San Pedro.

Friday 24th February
+ Pray that as we finish up our work, God will be filling our hearts with joy and that he would be comforting as we say goodbye to friends old and new.
+ Pray as we serve in the village of San Pablo.

Saturday 25th February
+ A special day as we head out to dedicate the homes that have been built during the week.
+ Pray for the families receiving these homes that God would continue to bless them and provide for their needs.

Sunday 26th February
+ Praise to God for the time we have in Antiqua for a little R&R and for the first time that we are able to collectively reflect on our experiences of the week.
+ Pray that God has opened our hearts, minds and eyes to received everything he had planned for each of us, and that we would be changed by our experience of witnessing God at work.

Monday 27th February
+ Pray for the team as we head back home
+ Pray for safe travels and for our weary hearts and bodies after a week of serving.
+ Continue to pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Guatemala.

And finally to keep you updated with our progress, log onto our blog

Again, a thousand THANK YOU's for all you've done so far and hopefully will continue to do throughout our trip, words cannot describe how truly grateful and humbled i am by your support. It takes a village to raise up a missionary (even a short-term missionary) and I'm so thrilled that you are my village.

Love, Hugs and BEST Blessings to you and yours


Wednesday, February 8, 2012


My friend Tracy is a crafty kind of gal (in the best possible way!) and has just started a new business doing cute, crafty things for little loves.

Here's a new accessory she put together for Little Miss Tipsy-Sausage, how adorable?

Check out more from DI4Y at Tracy's blog

Thanks Auntie Tracy


Sunday, February 5, 2012

And now for this week's mission trip message!

Hi Chaps!

Today we managed to gather almost the WHOLE TEAM (minus 1) and had a pot-luck lunch (I took Caribou coffee - Guatemala blend of course) we had a great time. I finally got to meet  Ed & Candy Nelson, the couple I will be working with. Our mission is to design and deliver three leadership retreats for the Pastors and Deacons of the churches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and when we're not doing that we'll be visiting homes spending time with widows and families in need. The Nelson's are awesome! They retired some time ago and now spend their lives dashing across the globe ministering to people in diverse places, they just got back from India on Tuesday where they had been for three weeks. TRULY, I want to be like them when i grow up :-)

Also today we heard from a member of our group who has formed an extraordinary ministry in Guatemala working with alcoholics and their families. He is a recovering alcoholic himself and today he shared the story of how his fight for sobriety helps him understand and be able to give hope to others struggling with similar problems. Alcoholism is rampant in Guatemala, it affects almost everyone in some form or another and is accompanied by so much shame and guilt that the families involved often don't get the help and support they need and might otherwise hope to recieve for other less stigmatized illnesses. It's our hope that we will be a blessing to all.

This year the demographic of our team is very different from previous years, with many families, kids and teenagers taking part. This mix brings so much life and joy to our group BUT unfortunately our team fundraising is a little slow and thus in addition to everything you have and are doing already, I have two big asks of you this week:

1. Please pray that as part of our preparation we will be able to raise the funds necessary to complete the trip for all team members.
2. That if you have any spare change, cash or even a few hulking great piles of unattended money! You would prayerfully consider donating to support our trip. This is how to do it..
DONATE - Our trip expenses are $2,300 per person so if you are willing and able to make a tax deductible donation here's how 
  • Online Select the "Give Now" button by the "Bridge Builders Guatemala" link. Create an account (or use your Wooddale Weblink account login info) Choose participant "Alison Smith" and select your contribution amount    
  • Check Make your check payable to Wooddale Church Mail check to Bridge Builders Wooddale Church6630 Shady Oak RoadEden Prairie, MN 55344

I'm so excited for our trip that I can barely stand it! almost two weeks feels like a long time...but as my Mum always says "all good things come to those that wait". 

Thanks SO much for waiting with me and encouraging and supporting me along the way - you're the BEST.

BEST Blessings to you and yours