Karen

Ocean Strategy

October 5, 2012 in Costa Rica Chronicles

I love the idea of going to the beach.  Beaches in Costa Rica are especially fun because they are all different.  You never know quite what to expect.  Some of them are black sand volcanic beaches with smooth waves and monkeys in the trees near by.  Some of them are filled with iguanas and sand crabs, and others are pink coral sand with lots of seashells.  These are lovely images and a lot of fun until you find yourself no longer walking on the sands or bouncing on the waves.  You develop a new ocean strategy when you’re hurled beneath the waves, unable to get up again.  That’s what happened to me last week on a black sand beach called Playa Hermosa.  I was having fun one minute and nearly drowning the next.  The odd part was, that no one really seemed to know I was in trouble except me. About the time the fourth wave hit me and I couldn’t get up, I started to wonder if I even would.

It’s interesting what goes through your mind when you’re struggling with life.  Whether you struggle from underneath the waves that wash relentlessly over your head, or you’re struggling with waves of debt, distress, or doubt, it’s hard.  Just when you think you’re almost free, almost clear and can breathe again, you’re back under the water, feeling the life wash out of you.  It’s a bleak picture, but the good news is that even that low ebb, that hostile wave, will calm down again.  Even when you’re washed up to the shoreline, covered with black sand so you can hardly recognize yourself, you realize you’re safe again.  Here’s the lesson, at least the one that hit me in this experience.

Sometimes, even when things look bleak, just one more day, one more effort, can change things in your favor.  Even when you’ve tried and been knocked down, when you’ve lost another job or another relationship, or something else of value, you can look out and know that you’re not that far from the shore.  You’re not that far from taking a new step.  Believe me, I was grateful to come up from the ocean waves, tired and aching from my effort to get up, and yet awed.  When I washed the sand from my hair and my bathing suit, I realized that one more time, I had survived.  One more time, I had risen to the top of a wave and could try again.  The Blue Ocean Strategy may well be to find a new course, a new place where you haven’t looked before to start again.  It’s the Karen Ocean Strategy too.  I’m off to find some new pathways, new beaches, new places to try again.  After all, I’m a survivor and so are you.  We came here to accomplish something wonderful and no matter how many times we have to try again, we know we will.

For all of you that have felt knocked down, remember each time you stand up, you win.  I’m standing with you in your own hopes and dreams.  Please watch out for the waves though…they can really scare you!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–What’s Good in Good-bye?

November 29, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

I’ve always hated good-byes.  Soldiers off to war, families separated by work or states, or continents, kids off to college for the first time, and now this one…leaving Costa Rica.  Tearful airport scenes practically bring me to my knees whenever I see them depicted in movies or as thoughts of that final moment approaches for me here,  the one where you know there’s no turning back.  The one where you know God holds tomorrow in His hand.

Sometimes it sure feels like there’s really nothing “good” about saying good-bye.  But then, the me that wants to give everything the most positive spin possible looks for the loopholes in that thinking.  After all, there was once “hello” that moment when you met, or that moment when you suddenly felt “found”.  There was that day when your world intersected with another person or another place in such a way that it was like a homecoming and nothing in the world could change that.  Not even leaving.

What else is good?  There’s the good in all the memories you get to carry, dance cards filled up with life’s sweet songs of times spent together, talks that went long into the night, poured forth like so many glasses of wine.  Those things are yours forever then, nothing can take those away from you, even something like saying good-bye.

There’s the good in the idea that you’ll find a way to stay connected no matter what.  You’ll take advantage of Skype and email, phone calls and visits promised somewhere down the road.  Those have some appeal, those are even true, but still the lingering understanding that now everything really changes is still clear.

Okay, so there’s the good that comes from change, from the fact that you’ve grown and learned many things together, and now you’ll explore the world a bit more, learn more things separately and have more to share when you’re together again.  That can be good.

Charles Schultz expressed my sentiments on this subject when he wrote, ” Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together?  I guess that wouldn’t work.  Someone would leave.  Someone always leaves.  Then we would have to say good-bye.  I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.”

So maybe that’s the answer to take it from hello to hello.  Even Jesus had to comfort the ones He was leaving behind.  He promised to be with them always, to come back for those He loved.  Maybe that’s the good part.  We too can promise to be with each other always, in spirit, in memory, in hearts of love, and then look for the day when we can return with a big hug and a hello.

Hello, Costa Rica…you have my heart.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–Guanabana Days

November 6, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

One wonderful thing about Costa Rica is the amazing variety of fruit trees growing up everywhere.  In my little garden alone we have sweet lemons, mangos, bananas, limes, and an impressive fruit called guanabana.  It turns out that this fruit provides one of my favorite drinks in the world, all white and frothy, and a little bit like a cross between pears and flowers.  It’s sometimes called sour soup here, but it’s really yummy.  For a while I ordered this delight at every local restaurant hoping to find the best guanabana potion possible.  I even had the chance to make it myself when a magnificent specimen of this fruit showed up on a low branch of the tree in my yard.  It looks like a big prickly green melon on the outside, but the inside is this soft white fleshy fruit filled with nectar.

My fascination about this is my belief that the most simple things bring the most beautiful memories.  I know that the thought of this drink alone will bring back a host of images of different opportunities I had to sample it in the mountains, or near a volcano, or at the Peruvian restaurant in Santa Ana where my friend, Douglas, first introduced it to me.  Personally, I think these little gifts of life are more lasting than let’s say the souvenir mask that was purchased at the gift shop on the way out of the airport simply because it was made in Costa Rica. Even if you hang it on the wall, you can’t really remember why you wanted it.

Thoughts of guanabana will bring Costa Rica back to me and make it even more dear to my heart.  With that idea, I realized that some other triggers exist to bring warm memories too.  The Sound of Music recording with Julie Andrews, for example, always makes me think of the first time my sister, who had just gotten her own car, drove me all the way from Unadilla, New York to Syracuse to see the movie.  I will always remember how special I felt that day and I think it was the beginning of the mutual friendship we have been blessed to share ever since.  A rainbow triggers a multitude of memories of answered prayers for me and the fresh smell of apple pie makes me think of my mother who often creates warm memories with her ability to bake homemade delights.  It’s these little things that are the ingredients of life, the ones that make the real difference.  For me, these are the things that hug my heart and keep me connected to every decade of my experience.

It’s worthwhile  then to remember the simple things, the handmade birthday card, the flowers picked just for you.  Keep them as a snapshot in your mind and place them gently in the scrapbook of your heart so you can refer back to them any time at all.  You’ve been blessed beyond measure, walked in Grace, and been loved in ways that you cannot afford to let slip from your view.  Let’s all take today and thank those who have walked with us and given us those simple pleasures, those blessed treasures that no one can ever take away and time can never erase.  May you have many more guanabana days!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–The Oxcarts

November 5, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

IMG_0082 A few months ago,  I had the pleasure of attending the annual Oxcart Parade in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.  The parade features hundreds of hand-painted, beautiful oxcarts and the brahma bulls that pull them, along with the machete yielding caballeros who guide them on their way.    The brightly painted ox carts have an important place in the history of Costa Rica and its economic development.  During the 19th century, they were the main transport used to haul the coffee crop and other export goods from the Central Valley to the port at Puntarenas. On the way back, they would bring goods mainly from Europe to the Central Valley.  For some remote farmers, the oxcarts still play a role and now and then, you see them at the local farmer’s markets.  Oxcarts are lovingly made in Sarchi,  which has the largest one in existence in its town square, as a salute to the agrarian way of life.

As I watched the parade, I was impressed with how well the bulls were kept in line and with the pride clearly exhibited on the faces of those whose carts were exquisitely painted with family symbols or original designs.  It was an experience that will not be soon forgotten as I position it against the fast-paced, run,run, go, go world that I’m so accustomed to in the US.  A part of me envied the symbolism of families pulling together so well to make life work, to share their goods and to deliver their best to each other. It took me back a bit to my own childhood when we canned the vegetables in our garden, made maple syrup from the trees, and innocently climbed trees and had the neighbors in for dinner.

I sometimes mourn the loss of innocence, of the charm and the blessing of feeling connected in wholesome and loving ways to those around us.  I wonder if the internet has made us smaller or bigger.  Is it easier to hide behind a screen than to go out and take a bag of vegetables to our neighbors?  Jesus often told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we don’t know our neighbors, than how can we understand how to love them?  The oxcarts represent community, working together to build and grow and survive.  They symbolize the gifts people share when they not only stop to show their wares, but when conversations develop that connect them more closely.

I bought a small oxcart, about two feet high that I’ll be bringing back with me when I return to the US.  I bought it to remind me of Costa Rica to be sure, but also to remember my neighbors, to reach out in conversation, to share whatever I have and to be willing to learn from those who walk the path of life with me.  With so much change going on all around us, much of our hope rests in learning to create meaningful relationships, partnerships if you will with those who live and work and intersect with us.

Augustine said this about our neighbors.  “The love of God is the first and great commandment.  But love of our neighbor is the means by which we obey it.  Since we cannot see God directly, God allows us to catch sight of him through our neighbor.  By loving our neighbor we purge our eyes to see God.  So love your neighbor and you will discover that in doing so you come to know God.”

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to step out of the race, to pace yourself in a gentle way, and engage the world with new eyes.  Let’s take a ride in the oxcart.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–Mission Possible

October 15, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

I used to love watching “Mission Impossible.”  It always posed a problem of global proportions, set a team out to do the task that was incredibly dangerous and  highly unlikely to succeed, and then offered fascinating ways for the story to unfold and the team to win.  Of course, no one could ever know the identity of the miracle makers and if they were caught, no one would acknowledge that they were on a special assignment.  Even the instructions for the  assignment were set to self destruct in a matter of seconds.

Something about that image makes me think of another group of highly unlikely men who followed a carpenter around for three years and managed through some impossible measures to feed thousands, heal the hopeless, and bring sight and insight into the hearts and minds and eyes of many. Talk about mission impossible!

My experience in Costa Rica  reminds me of that continuing mission.  I’ve been honored to meet a lot of people here with a sense of purpose.  They’re here to feed thousands with love and deeds of good will.  They’re here to offer hope, to teach new ideas, to give from the heart.  They’ve come to turn up the light, to make it easier for others to breathe and to live more fully.

I’ve met pastors and musicians and artists and people who work with Habitat for Humanity.  I’ve met teachers and kids and moms and chefs who do their best to cross cultural divides and seek the common good.

The new perspective I’ve gained has reminded me that it is possible to leave all you know behind (at least temporarily), embrace another land and another culture, even without knowing the language and see what really matters in the world.  Our neighbors everywhere have the same hopes and dreams.  We all want basic freedoms,  people to see us and affirm us and love us, and we want to know that there’s a reason for us to be here on this planet.

The early followers of Jesus chose to live their individual lives with an incredible purpose and sense of mission.  They lived in a small world in a big way. They lived full out doing the impossible, the risky, the absolute no turning back kind of lifestyle and they made a difference.

We get to do the same thing today because the mission isn’t accomplished.  In fact, wherever you are, you are part of  it.  It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, it’s what you do about living that matters. It’s what you do about your neighbors, your friends, your children, your family, your life that is the work today.

One of my friends likes to say that we have to do all the possibles and God will do the impossibles.  It seems to me that part of the way God does His impossibles  is by putting His possibility thinkers all together in one spot where they can help each other do amazing things.  He has them join hands to get the job done.  He never sends anyone out alone.  He likes teamwork.

The amazing thing is that if you accept His mission, all the miracle tools you need will be at your disposal.  You’ll discover help along the way in places where you least expect it.  You’ll be poised to succeed, to get to the victory.  Oh, and should you get caught doing your good deeds your team will avow every awesome thing you did to make a difference.  In fact, they’ll be cheering from the moment you answer the call.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me,  I am sending you.” John 20:21. Thanks for being part of the Mission Possible!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–Beauty and the Bugs

September 29, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

One thing my friends know about me is that I’ve never had a really warm place in my heart for God’s little creepy crawly critters.  It’s safe to say I haven’t been tempted to collect insects, pin beetles to a board, or even to actually acknowledge the rightful place of four, eight, and many-legged creatures in the world…until now.

When I first came to Costa Rica, I was pretty sure this would be a troublesome issue.  I figured the landscape was littered with leggy specimens of the underworld and I was somehow going to have to adjust.  Well,  the truth is there have been moments.  The first time a couple geckos walked across my floor as though they really thought Geico scouts were in the house, I wasn’t inclined to chat or give them little overcoats.  I mostly wanted to step around them and get them out the front door.  Little did I know then how much I needed to appreciate their presence because they keep the population of  less enjoyable insects from invading my space.  This of course means, they now have my regard, if not my heart.

My biggest experience though happened one night, actually one early morning about 4AM, when something that sounded like a big hail storm hitting my tin roof woke me up.  Thinking we were getting serious rain, I hopped out of bed to be sure the windows in my office were secured.  It happens there is an outside light on that corner of my house and as I looked out expecting to see the rain coming down, I was instead assailed by what looked like thousands of cicada-like winged aliens, apparently bouncing off the tin roof at great speed as they gravitated toward the light.  I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of an old Alfred Hitchcock episode as I imagined those critters sliding under the roof looking for a way in.

Feeling somewhat unbalanced by the whole thing, I jumped back into bed and hoped I would discover it was simply a bad dream. Morning came quickly since I couldn’t sleep very well, and I timidly peeked out of the covers expecting to see a war zone. Thankfully there were no critters winging across the runway of my tiled floors. In fact it seemed all was calm.  Stepping gingerly outside, I saw only two or three of the invaders, wings down, little legs barely moving, a mere shadow of their former glory in tact.  I was grateful to see them to realize I had not dreamed them up during the night.  It turned out this fellowship of believers had actually never visited this garden before and though they made a big impression on me, that just wasn’t enough so they moved on to find converts elsewhere.

Now that I’ve been in Costa Rica awhile, I’ve witnessed the beauty of nature in ways that I only shuddered to think about before.  I’ve seen incredible spider webs.  I’ve seen how an insect slain on the battlefield of my floor the night before, is ceremoniously carried off by young troops by morning.  I’ve seen the tiniest ants I can imagine carry a mammoth moth into their secret hide out in the wall, never to be seen again.  It’s a reminder of how the God of details created a perfect plan for all His creatures.  Each one is to benefit the others in some way.

Have I adopted any leggy new friends?  Am I just like Cinderella knitting little sweaters for friendly geckos now?  No!  But I am more inclined to witness the industry of the world around my feet that lives and has its being because of the Creator who saw all of it was good.  I recognize a balance and a form of beauty in all this, though I still prefer to keep most critters outside in the garden where God intended them to be.

Hey, I can’t change everything about me all at once! But, I can say with the writer of Genesis, “God made all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

Wherever you are, bless all that God made because it is good. In fact, He designed all that He made to work together. What a perfect plan!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–A New Yorker in Yorkin

September 18, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Part of the gift of growing up with humble roots was that my family was the center of my world.  We each shared the responsibility for making life work.   I was raised in a small upstate New York town and around kindergarten age moved into a farmhouse built in 1850 that had hardly ever been updated.  It had 13 mysterious old rooms for a kid to explore with imagination.  With just a big old pot belly stove and a coal furnace, we often had frozen water pipes in winter, a garden in the springtime, canned our foods in the summer and made syrup from the trees by fall.  As I look back on it now, it was a beautiful season of my life!

As part of my Costa Rica adventure, I spent a couple days at an indigenous reserve called Yorkin.  Though much more primitive than my humble beginnings, it was a reminder of the importance of each person in a family and of what it means to feel blessed for every simple thing you have.

Getting to Yorkin meant stepping into a hollowed out tree trunk, chasing away a spider with a five-inch leg span and holding on tight.  The “boat” was guided by two capable natives who watched for obstructions and river rapids and made sure the passengers were safe.  It didn’t take long for the breathtaking landscape to sweep me away into its storybook wonder.  In fact, I was so focused on being in the midst of what felt like the Garden of Eden that I totally missed the moment when our guides struggled to get us over an obstacle.  For once, I was so immersed in God’s grace, I didn’t notice we were in some kind of trouble.  While others stewed in momentary concern, I blissfully basked in the present joy.  I know there’s a lesson in there somewhere that I need to remember.

Getting to our appointed place on the river bank, we donned our backpacks and were led into the jungle through the mud and the biggest ferns and foliage I’ve ever seen in my life.  We soon discovered our “hotel” which consisted of a round wooden structure with two floors and some tents where we would sleep.  It was totally open air and was a great place to catch all the sounds of the night.

The most colorful roosters I’ve ever seen in my life strutted cheerfully around the grounds amidst the fruit trees, the flowers and the tender dwelling where the host family lived.  Our host, an honorable grandfather, was the only one who would sit with us at meals.  His wife and daughter prepared the food and his sons taught us about the trees on the grounds and how to make the grass roof.  His beautiful grandchildren laughed and played and looked at us with curiosity.  There were no toys from Walmart, no stove, no TV, no refrigerator, no beds, just hammocks.  Food was prepared in a make-shift oven with the help of a camp stove.  The family embraced us, happy to have company and happy to share stories.  Our host prayed with us at dinner and blessed us.  He was clearly proud of all he had and of his beautiful family.  The bamboo floors may have been wobbly and the facilities humble, but the experience was fit for a king.

Sometime soon I’ll tell you how we made our own dreamy chocolate sauce and how we put our mats out under a cascade of stars so clear you could pull the lights out of the sky.  It was a magical opportunity.  Here we had everything that was important and we weren’t distracted by what wasn’t.

I invite you to find a place, a space, a moment today to just slip away from the noise and hustle-bustle of life and give God a chance to connect you to the stars and to your roots.  Let only the things He has made for you distract you.  Let the world carry on without you.  It will renew your spirit and create a longing in your soul to connect more often.  That’s what this adventure did for me.  There’s more to tell, so I’ll take you back to Yorkin again soon.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–Wonders and Waterfalls

September 17, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Waterfalls are beautiful from a distance, something worthy of respect and awe at the powerful impact they have on everything around them.  Until I came to Costa Rica, my only waterfall experiences involved tourist moments at Niagara Falls, standing a very safe distance away, and some picturesque observations of lovely falls in Hawaii.  Actually stepping into a waterfall though, had never really occurred to me and my Costa Rica experience was both fearful and exhilarating.

At first, wading a respectful distance from the waterfall, I felt the water rushing in pools around my knees and ankles.   Maneuvering the rocky bottom and immersed now in the pounding torrent up to my  hips, I felt the mists get heavier as my whole body was bombarded with the force that spewed tons of liquid into my face like no mere shower had ever done.  If the winds didn’t knock me over, I thought I could try to stay standing and look up at the gushing force pummeling me and trying to catch me off balance.  The waterfall has all the power and I was simply at its mercy, rubbing the rushing spray from my eyes,  hardly able to blink.

Then, I walked closer still and the force from the cascading waters  seemed calmer, almost accepting of my being there, yet still  demanding as  the flume-like down pour continued.  Mind you this was the feminine waterfall, the one willing to embrace me and let me in.  We would not have attempted this in the more masculine waterfall a short distance away.

As I adjusted to the experience of  this moment, my friend suddenly disappeared beneath the waterfall and left me standing there alone in my fear and trembling.  I stood breathless with the anxiety that coursed through my body.

“Karen, come on,” I heard him call to me.  “What? I thought, there’s no way I’m going into that massive wall of water.  I won’t be able to breath, I’ll drowned.”  As I stood there, contemplating my fate and unable to actually move, a strong arm and a beckoning hand came out through the watery wall and caught me by surprise.  “Come on,” he said again, and this time I found myself being pulled through the force and quickly sitting under a ledge where I could breath and laugh and be amazed at what had just been accomplished.

This experience may not seem like a big thing to those of you with no fear of water, but for me, it was huge and totally different from any experience I had ever had.   As I sat under that rock ledge, behind the powerful falls, I realized that moment did something for me.  It was a triumph of unknown proportions…it opened the way for me to become a more adventurous spirit, a more willing participant in my own story.  God had blessed me to learn more about Him and about myself.  I left that place a brand new woman and I’ve been awed by what God has done ever since.

Perhaps it was a baptism of sorts because I became a new person.  I believe God has moments like this for you too, perhaps couched in something you’re afraid to face or uncertain of how to pursue.  Today, I encourage you to go after those things, to be bold and brave because the obstacles are fleeting. They only appear to be there to give you the chance to work out how you’ll see them.  In my case, I certainly give thanks to my friend who helped pull me through the fear to discover a new way of seeing.

May your friends walk beside you today and help you face your fears and remind you that you’re safe in the hands of the One who made you and wants you to jump into life with both feet.  Just remember this word from Isaiah 43 which says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

You are not alone.  You are called to a life of great adventure.  Are you ready to take it on?

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–The Trust Walk

September 16, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

One of the awesome things about Costa Rica is the opportunity it affords to visit the variety of volcanoes in various parts of the country.  Most are not active, but they have a powerful presence just the same as you hike to view them from designated observation points.  At one such volcano, I took part in a trust walk.  It happened that when we got to the volcano, the view was crystal clear and we could smell the sulfur, see the immense power of the crater, be awed by the variety of colors and textures the crater possessed and be still and listen to the sounds emitted at its depths.  Volcanoes hold a bit of mystery and seeing them against the vast mountainous landscape of Costa Rica and against the rich blue sky is a powerful experience.

As it happened that day, our perfect vista of the volcano was short lived as the clouds came rolling in rather quickly and within twenty minutes of  our entering the spot, the volcano disappeared.  If we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, we might not have realized it even existed there as the cloud cover was so thick as to make it invisible to us.  The speed of its disappearance was truly like a magician had simply laid a blanket over the top of the space.

Since we could no longer see anything, my friend suggested we take a walk around the perimeter a bit and so we headed out across the black sand of the rim.  It was a pretty wide open space, a little bit cool at that elevation, and had sparse vegetation.  He suggested to me that I should look at a tree at the far end of the grounds from where we were and by simply listening to his voice, see if I could head straight toward the tree.  He promised to tell me if I came upon any notable obstacles.  Not sure quite how I felt about the whole thing, I agreed somewhat timidly, but proceeded to close my eyes.  He told me to walk and count to fifty and then stop and open my eyes as I listened to his voice.  I did.  When I got to fifty, he suggested I keep my eyes closed and go another fifty steps.  I did, but this time he was no longer guiding me with his voice.   After I walked about 25 steps, I stopped and called out to him.  “Are you still there?” I asked.  He assured me that he was and that I should count another 25 steps and then open my eyes.

At the suggested point, I stopped and asked if I could look to see where the tree was.  I was pretty sure I had walked a fairly straight line and anticipated it would be close to me and directly in front of me.  When I opened my eyes, I was astonished to discover the tree was nowhere in sight, in fact it was a good 90 degrees off to the side.

Several things happened in that experience.  One, I had to totally trust my friend to watch out for me as I walked over uncertain terrain.  Two, I had to keep listening to his voice so that I would both feel comforted and directed.  Three I had to believe that I could achieve the goal of reaching the tree.

When I saw how far off the path I was I laughed out loud.  “Isn’t it just like us to get off the path when we aren’t listening to God’s voice,” he postulated.  “Isn’t it interesting how quickly we lose our way when we try to maneuver the path on our own?”

Most of us are on a continual trust walk as we go about our day to day tasks.  We’re working toward a goal, believing we can get there, and yet oddly, not really getting where we meant to go.  Perhaps we need to be much more aware of listening to His voice.  If we don’t hear it, we may be wise to simply stop until we have caught His essence in the winds around us and understand the way we should go.

As Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:9

I don’t know about you, but I’m doing my best to keep my ears open.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–The Happy Place

September 15, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Today marks the 188th anniversary of Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821.  It is a day of celebration and dancing in the streets.  Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest places to live on the planet and I’m starting to understand why.

Now that I’ve lived here a few months, I’m discovering what it means to live in a place that makes you feel happy, a place where no matter what your job is or your income level, you can find reasons to smile.   The Spanish word sonrisa means smile and reading it leads me instantly to the word sunrise.  That’s one of the things that makes me happy.  I wake up every morning to the sound of the roosters crowing (around 6AM) no need for an alarm clock these days, and the sun is up and ready to cheer me on for the day.  It’s not just sunrise though, it’s sunrise against a background of clear blue skies and beautiful lush greenery and vibrant flowers.  It’s a constant  reason to smile.  The earth simply calls me back to life.

Waking up happy is possible everywhere I know, but living here has taught me to appreciate those things that I had nearly forgotten before.  I smile at the birds who talk in a variety of languages from the mango trees and dance with the butterflies in the garden.  I smile at the workers repairing rooftops who sing out “Good Morning, pretty Lady” as I walk to the local market.  No matter how old I am, I appreciate a little flirtation.   I smile as I walk past the little school near my house where four year olds are learning to sing in Spanish, English, and French.  It just makes me happy.

I’m also getting quite spoiled simply by receiving the love of my friends and family and co-workers here.  I don’t know why the whole world doesn’t greet each other with a cheek-to-cheek kiss and a smile.  Greeting each other, welcoming each other into the day is a beautiful thing.  It  acknowledges your presence, lifts your spirits, and embraces you into the inner circle of life.

So here today as we celebrate Costa Rica’s independence day, celebrate your independence too.  Celebrate your reasons to smile…sonrisa!  Celebrate all that makes you happy right where you are.  I’m reminded of that old saying, “bloom where you’re planted.”  Well do that…make today a happy day, a chance to bloom into the full measure of all that God meant for you.  Remember that the one with a happy heart has a continual feast as it says in Proverbs.

So let’s do some feasting on all that is good and do some dancing in the streets.   Pure Vida!