Updated: Aug 17, 2018
I've been trying to think of where to even begin on this post, because no words will be able to do this experience justice, but I will try, because my heart longs to share what it has seen, learned, and loved with all of you.
I've been avoiding writing this because, in a way, that means it's all over. It's closure, a summary of my week, my experiences, what I felt, what I did, that gets neatly tucked away into a blog post, and life goes on... but that is the opposite of what I want this post to be. This post, I pray, will be the doorway to many more. To stories from friends I met there, members of my team, and members of the Agua Viva team as well.
Somewhere midst of my jumbled thoughts and reflections, I pray that you might be able to catch a glimpse at the heart of Costa Rica- the culture, the people, and their stories, which by the grace and goodness of God, have now become a part of mine forever.
I pray that through these stories, and ones to come, perhaps you will get to know them too. That you would somehow be able to see Chente's gentle smile in the rearview mirror, or hear the roosters wake you up in the morning (way too early) - that you would be almost able taste the best rice and beans you've ever had, and juice and coffee that are out-of-this-world. I have no words that could ever describe the hospitality, or the heart, of the people of Costa Rica, but I do know that I am blessed beyond measure to know them and to be changed forevermore because of them.
Below are my journal entries from our travel day and Day 1 in Costa Rica, along with some stories, thoughts, and reflections. Pura Vida my friends! :)
July 28, 2018 - Travel Day
I can't believe this day is finally here, it seems surreal. I've planned, and prepared, and it always seemed so far away- but now suddenly, it's here, and it's real, and it's happening. Ahh!
We finally made it to our hotel- it's definitely not what I expected, but then I again I didn't really know what to expect. My room has two beds, a TV, and a shower with hot water, and the key for my room is an actual, physical key. Water is out front, so I will have to go get some before bed to drink and brush my teeth tonight. There is a beautiful, tropical sounding bird outside singing. Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The mountains, and the rain forrest, and even A VOLCANO!! It's other-worldly. God is so amazing. Already I'm so thankful, so grateful for my blessings...wow, just wow. The people we passed, the houses, everything...it's all so different, but everyone seems so happy here. Already my heart is expanding, already I can feel a change in me. I'm just so thankful to be here. SO thankful. I can't wait to see what God will speak to my heart this week, how He will change me, grow me, challenge me, and love me. I am beginning to understand that I've had it all wrong lately. You see, happiness, joy, abundance- these things are not found by the fast pace of gaining more and more, or by the number of people you know, or how much you accomplish, or how "successful" you are- It's about just being. Being here. Right here, in this exact moment. And being content with exactly what this moment holds. It's about being proud of the life you live, and living it for God, and for others. It's about enjoying the abundant blessings that God puts before you daily- Today I am thankful for real Costa Rican food! Beans and rice, chicken, plantains, and yuca! SO GOOD. I never thought I would be open to trying that, but it was delicious. I am so grateful for the people who are on this journey with me, for the ability to get clean water at home whenever I want and never having to worry or think twice about it. I am thankful that God isn't done with me yet- that He chose me to be here, in this place, at this moment, for His glory. I am thankful for this entire experience and memories that will change my heart forever and last a lifetime. For the chance to unplug, unwind, and LISTEN to what God will say, and see what He will do.
" Jesus then took the bread and gave thanks and after He had given thanks, He distributed it to those who were seated"
Thank the Father for His abundance in your life- that you may then pour out His blessings, love, and abundance to others.
Thoughts/Reflections from Travel Day
I'll be honest, driving the three-hours from the airport to Los Chiles, I had a lot of biases going on. Looking out the window at the houses, the people, the buildings and signs; the differences all around seemed to be all I could see, but my drive home a week later would prove to be a much different view of the world. I also remember being absolutely swept away by how beautiful this country was. The mountains, and the trees, and the volcano, everything was so green, and so pure, and so much more than I could have ever expected. I remember trying really hard to come on this journey with a good mindset, but I was in such a selfish, distant place from God, or at least that's what it felt like. A lot of the prayers I wrote in my journal on this first night, and throughout the week, were for forgiveness, for God to let me return to Him again, to soften my heart to what He wanted me to see there, to His will and His ways for my life. To seek Him first again, to fall in love with Him, and with the life He has blessed me with again. And oh...what a week He had in store for me. <3
Sunday, July 29, 2018- Day 1
Yesterday was "technically" Day 1, but it was a travel day so I'm counting this as our first full day. I've had a pounding head ache, probably just from flying, long day, etc. but I pray it goes away soon. Today we will go to church in Los Chiles and worship with the local people here and I am so excited to see what that's like. We're also going to take a river tour and maybe see some monkeys hehe :) Also, the addresses here are so funny. Like, the hotel I'm staying at, they use major landmarks to describe places, so we are at the hotel 300m NW of the hospital, or something like that. Or for some who aren't located in bigger city areas, they would describe where they live to other people as "on the road too...such and such" It's very interesting. Everything is so different here. I am very thankful for a lot of things. I'm trying to forget all my "worries" and "problems" back home this week, and just really focus on what God is showing me here. "Ask for wisdom" "Seek wisdom" seems to the overwhelming theme of my devotionals/prayers this week- and the Lord knows I need it. I'm missing my nana and papa a lot, I am sad I won't be able to tell them all about this when I get back home, but I know they're with me here <3
God led me in prayer this morning to Mark:5, which is the crucifixion of Jesus... maybe to remind me of what Christ has done for me, and who He is, because I need to remember that lately. More later... Always, Nicole <3
I SAW A SLOTH TODAY!!!! IT WAS SO CUTE AND CLIMBING THROUGH THE TREES AND DOING SLOTH THINGS!!! Today we went to church and I got to hangout with the kids there, and these little girls were clinging to me the whole time and the way their eyes and smile lit up, I will never forget. My heart just melted for these kids, there is definitely something there that I think God is calling me too. I'm so mad at myself for being so consumed with all of my "problems" lately, me, me, me... Lord, please soften my heart to more and more of YOU. Fix my eyes and my heart on what you are doing within me Father. Fix my gaze on on You and on Heaven Lord, not on the things of this world. "Lord let me burn for You again, let me return to You again." For in You alone will I find my rest, my peace, my fullness of joy, my contentment, and life eternal... Father, please reveal Yourself to me this week. Thank you so much for this safe room and hotel, and the kind ladies who fix all of our meals and run this place. They are so welcoming and nice. Let me return to you Lord, Jesus fill my heart <3 You are enough. Remind me Father, draw me nearer and nearer to You. Show me Your ways and Your plans for my life Father, and help me to live for You, and to make You proud Lord. Amen
Today I am thankful for:
Good food & clean water
Being alive and the chance to truly make a difference in the lives of others, and to be changed from the inside out
The grace, mercy, gentle kindness, and forgiveness of the Lord and for Your unending love, which I do not deserve, or understand, thank You <3
The beauty of the world you made Lord and the chance to see & experience it all!
Devotional: Acts 15:30-34
Thoughts/Reflections from Day 1
Day 1 was incredible, I remember how much I loved WALKING to church. It was so nice. The first part of worship was prayers and singing, and it was so amazing because you could hear everybody praying quietly to themselves under their breath, it gave me chills, it was such a cool experience. I have a soft spot in my heart for kids, so when they asked who wanted to help with VBS during the service...I caved lol But it was so much fun! We sang silly songs, and danced, and despite the language barrier, we laughed and got along just fine. That's what I love about kids, there is no barriers with them. No color, or race, or religion, or language, we are all just human in their eyes. How beautiful a thought <3 The river boat was awesome too!! We saw soooo many monkeys...like the angriest monkeys I have ever seen haha they shook the tree branches at us with all their little monkey strength. They probably thought they defeated the boat when we pulled away #proudofyoumonkeys and of course the sloths!! which we were super lucky to have such an amazing opportunity to see one. We also saw a lot of birds, and iguanas, and a "Jesus Christ" lizard- because it runs across the water on it's two back legs lolol We went to the grocery store in town, which was cool and we got to try these Costa Rican strawberry-filled vanilla cookie things, which were 100% not "Nicole friendly" but yolo I ate that cookie and I have zero regrets, it was delicious lol I remember already feeling such a change in me at the end of this first day, I remember feeling like I had been there forever, like the people I'd met that day, and the members of my team, had been my friends and family my whole life, it was such a strange feeling, but I loved it. At the end of the day, we all had dinner together and then did our little devotional/recap of the day and it was so nice to hear what everybody's experience had been so far, and to just to sit around a dinner table with pretty much complete strangers at that point and just talk, and enjoy each others company, it was so amazing. I wish we did that more here at home, let's be the ones to start that! :) I remember being so content, so at peace, so happy that night and it was only Day 1. I already didn't want to leave. I've been home for almost two weeks now and I still don't want to leave lol Costa Rica grabbed ahold of my heart so tight and I hope it never lets it go<3
P.S.- not having much access to my phone/social media for a week was AMAZING, some changes definitely need to be made there for the better now that I'm back
Day 2 to come soon... stay tuned :)