Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hasta Luego.



It's Christmas morning. There are no longer any kids in the house, so everything is still. We were up too late after the Christmas Eve service but my body is still trained to wake up no later than 7:30AM (6:30AM Costa Rican time). 

I'm home. 

Those words feel relative once your life has gone so many directions that quite a few places actually feel like home.

Last week, I said goodbye to my home in Costa Rica for the past year. I have been busy with Christmas fun, wedding to-dos, & catching up with friends and family… and have naturally been procrastinating on giving closure to this season of adventure.







Leaving Costa Rica after a years was not easy on the heart (..or the suitcases for that matter). I had an internal battle about whether or not I should allow myself to feel the emotion tangled up in all of the goodbyes. You see, after years of practice, I am pretty decent at playing the "out of sight, out of mind" game because it's easier that way- there are less pieces of my heart to put back together. But sometimes it's important to be sensitive. If I'm not vulnerable and open, I will never feel the Spirit working & moving in me. McCray always says that allowing yourself a minute to experience the true emotion is like cold water in a river: it reminds you that you're alive.



That's what's special about humans, isn't it? We experience the world through and emotional filter. We aren't solely driven by out carnal instincts and we don't solely depend on our physical adaptations. 

We have hearts that were made to feel. As I walked away from those relationships, I memorized their "last looks" willing myself not to forget. Sometimes you have to experience a heart break to recognize what a full heart feels like. 

On the plane ride home, I choose the window seat. I always choose the window seat. As I was watching Costa Rica disappear, I felt like any moment could be my last picture of those green hills. And just as it went out of sight, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a rainbow. 

Endings are never seamless but they are invariably followed by new beginnings, full of new promises and hope. But even though my vision is limited and only extended so far, I can look ahead at the future with confidence.

Lord, I am forever grateful for how you have molded me and I trust that my life will be filled with many more years of growth and adventure!

["She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25]

--I'm looking forward to sharing more of my last few weeks in Costa Rica with you soon! 






Monday, December 16, 2013

The Last Day of School

Since Costa Rica only has a "rainy" or "dry" season, their school year runs from February- early December- with the summer break being December & January. So last week, I said good-bye to my own very first class.

The last day of school was reminiscent of like one of those break-ups where neither of you want it, but it inevitably has to happen. I spent a whole year pouring my heart and love into those relationships. I knew details about these children that most others may never know. My head is stock piled with their likes, dislikes, & varied learning styles. My life has been equally dependent on them this year, as theirs on mine. I have watched them grow and change and pray that they never stop. 

The year ended in a whirl wind of exams, grades, and parent meetings. But one thing I made sure of was slowing down to reflect as a class on what we had been through together. Unbeknownst to me, it started with a surprise party that was planned 100% by my students! Ok, so maybe I knew that they were cooking something up but I was pretty impressed when my 2nd&3rd graders completely ambushed our first class period and surprised me with cake, tortilla chips, and some pretty weak lemonade. That's what you get when 8&9 year olds are in charge! 




Luckily, I had something for them as well. My tradition is to make bracelets for all of the students that I teach. Finally, on my third class (first REAL class) I actually worked ahead! Tying these bracelets on each child is a special time when I get to praise and encourage them and tell them how much I enjoyed having them in my class. Afterwards, we watched a slideshow of our year in pictures- which has made me nostalgic enough to cry just about every time I've watched it. 

Then, we ended the year with a school wide party that even the teachers enjoyed & a graduation later that night. 

Saying good bye to those little ones was like watching them walk away with a little piece of my heart. But fortunately, I think that when that happens, your heart grows a little bit bigger and makes room for even more kids to steal my heart the future.

My last day of school picture!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Like Ships Need The Sea.


We listened to Ashley's "Summer Playlist" all day long, even though it was November. We drank soda out of glass bottles, waved our sarongs around like flags and swam through rainbows of coral. We held giant star fish, touched anemones, and only tried to capture such a beautiful day in a series of memories & photos. My only regret is not having had an underwater camera to capture the most beautiful & colorful coral reefs I have ever seen!

All that I could muster was what seemed like such a weak "thank you" to the Lord in comparison to all the beauty he had revealed to me that day.

I loved our trip to Bocas del Toro, but not because of the parties and the night life. To me, that's all a bit overrated and only fun if intoxicated. I loved our trip to Bocas del Toro because I got one more glimpse of God's unending creativity and beauty.


God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:10


There are three things that amaze me—
    no, four things that I don’t understand:
how an eagle glides through the sky,
    how a snake slithers on a rock,
    how a ship navigates the ocean,
    how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19
[NLT]



"See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…"
Matthew 6:28-30



By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. 
He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and by faith he acted on what he was told.
Hebrews 11:7
[msg]



"Many waters cannot quench this love.."
SOS 8:7




Thursday, November 28, 2013

TWO PLACES AT ONCE!

I love walking across borders. 

It reminds be of A Walk To Remember when Jamie & Landon go to and straddle the state line in order to be in "two places at one time". On road trips, McCray and I always yell "TWO PLACES AT ONCE" as we're passing the "Welcome to __(insert state name here)__" sign. 


Well ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing like a country border crossing to make you feel like yelling,
  "TWO PLACES AT ONCE!"


       Last weekend, we traveled down to Boca Del Toro in Panama. This antique bridge is where you cross the Costa Rican/Panama border. Ashley looks so cool and trendy in her bridge walking picture, but really we were freaking out a tad bit. The bridge floor boards definitely felt a little too old and a little too loose for our comfort…But hey there I am, smack dab in the middle of CR & Panama.

How to cross from CR to Panama:

1. Stand in line, get your passport stamped by Costa Rica/turn in customs form.
2. Walk across the antique railroad bridge.
3. Go pay your border tax- $3, listen to some Miley Cyrus blasting from somewhere down the road while you're waiting!
4. Go stand in line again, get your passport stamped by Panama.
5. Smile, because you have a brand spanking new Visa. Way to go, champ.

(To return to CR, do these in reverse. Except keep #5 at #5. Trust me, it doesn't work any other way.)

That red & white build on the left = where you pay your tax.



After crossing the border, you should probably head to Bocas Del Toro, because really, you've never seen water clear blue like this. 

When we got there, we rented bikes for $5 each and rode around town to see what we could find!










And after that fun afternoon, we took a boat taxi to Aqua Lounge- where we jumped off swings into the ocean!


  We even met one guy who helped design the place. How cool is that job?


Ashley taking the plunge...
Bocas Del Toro- Isla Colon
(from across the water)

There have been so many days in my life when I have wished I could be in two places at once, especially this past year. 

At least this was one of those days that I could say that I had been.






Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Oh dear, Reggae Night.

Our trip to Panama was so relaxing & stress-free. Instead of taking the public bus & boats, etc to Panama, we ended up taking a 2 night backpackers tour through a company called Caribe. I couldn't have been happier with that choice! 


Our tour picked us up Friday morning on the Carribean coast of Costa Rica at a beach near the border (that I have visited a few times) called Puerto Viejo. 

Playa Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Thursday night we stayed in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica before heading to Bocas Del Toro, Panama in the morning. We decided to stay at a cute little hostel called "The Lazy Loft" above a really chill restaurant on the beach. 


Playa Puerto Viejo de Talamanca



The owner mentioned to us that it was Reggae night with free drinks for the ladies 10-12. So, when the Reggae music started up, we weren't surprised. At 11, we crawled  into bed, all packed up for our 7AM morning departure, resting assured that the music outside our window would stop in a mere hour. 
Boy were we wrong.

Live music at "The Lazy Mon"




















3 hours later, the music had turned from a chill reggae ballad to a bumpin reggae-techno disco mix. The volume had also increased to the extent that when I told Ashley I was going to move to another room- I had to yell. Literally this party was on the other side of our glass sliding door. Finally at about 3:30AM (or was it 4? Either way, I was in an unhappy sleepy stupor) we moved down the hall to an empty room and received some muted relief from the happening reggae party a floor below. It's pretty laughable looking back on it now, to be honest.. to think of how badly we underestimated the owner's nonchalant mention of a "oh yeah and tonight's reggae night". All I can say now is BEWARE OF REGGAE NIGHT!

Next up- recap of crossing the Costa Rica/Panama border & heading to Bocas Del Toro! 




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#WWCHALLENGE- Vote Now!


McCray and I are in the Top 100 Finalists (of 2,300+ entires) for the Wedding Wire Instacouple Challenge!

PLEASE go and VOTE for us now! Make sure you scroll for a bit cause we're #57!

http://mktg.weddingwire.com/contests/instacouple



Here's the picture & the story that got us into the top 100...



 McCray & Lauren! We fell into summer love as camp counselors at a camp in Dahlonega, GA. Our romance blossomed through  secret letters passed back and forth throughout the weeks. Some time after that, I found myself back in that same precious mountain town, a ring newly on my finger and a dilemma in my hands. I had just been offered the job of my dreams: a year long teaching position in #CostaRica. I opted for the adventure and we have been pursuing one another across the ocean through letters & postcards once again. A year later, and two months from our wedding, I can proudly say that McCray has supported and loved me wholeheartedly every day of our long distance #engagement. We have grown immensely during this season and I wouldn't trade our story with any other in the world! 

***UPDATE 12/16/13: We didn't win first place, but we DID end in the Top 10, which won us a $100 Apple Gift Card! Thanks for all of your help, we were honored by your support!!!***





Sunday, November 24, 2013

Panama-nia: sneak peek!

Just got home to Costa Rica from our 4 day trek down south(east) to our neighbor, Panama! I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to add another stamp to my passport before heading home so we decided to venture to Bocas del Toro. 

The bus driver drove like a maniac on the way home tonight so we made the trip in 1 1/2 hrs less than expected. A little shaken from the fear of driving over a few cliffs here & there, but thoroughly pleased to be back in my cozy bungalow. 

I am too excited about the wonderful adventure that we had so before I crash, I'm going to give you a sneak peek (it's all I have the energy for!). 

It. Was. Just. Lovely

These are no filter, no edit- too tired for that. You're getting the real thing.

Panama/Costa Rica BORDER CROSSING!
Yes, literally this bridge is how you cross the border. 
clear blue.
Riding bikes around town!

The most wonderful sailboat tour.


just beautiful.