Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where In the World Are You?

Now that we have been living here in our mission home in Grano de Oro for a while, I'm starting a little series to tell you more about where we live, about our home and life here, about the Church here and the work we are doing at this time and hope to do in the future.  I wanted to wait a while to get our bearings in this new place, and surely, there is much, much for us to learn, but I do feel like we are becoming more familiar day by day with our surroundings. So, are you up for a little geography lesson first?

Costa Rica is in Central America, a group of countries south of Mexico that form the small strip of land that connects North America and South America. In the map below, it is the curving strip of red just above the blue of South America.

In Central America, Costa Rica is located south of Nicaragua and north of Panama.  In the map below, it is light green.

Now for Grano de Oro. It gets a little harder here. See, Grano de Oro doesn't really show up on maps.  Just 20 years ago, it didn't exist. It was all one farm owned by one family which bordered the mountains where the indigenous Cabecar communities of Costa Rica lived in the Chirripo River region.  Over the last twenty years, as the older generation of the family died and the land was split and children married and bore children of their own, a town has sprung up.  Electricity, running water and roads have only been installed in the last 10 -15 years.  When those things were introduced, the town became the entrance and exit point for people traveling in to and out of the communities in the Chirripo reservation lands. There are about forty communities in the reservation, spread out wide and far. Some are as close as 2-3 hour walk or 40 minute drive, others require an hour long drive to where the road ends and then 12-15 hours of walking.  

On the map below, just under the letter "A" in "CENTRAL", you will see a town called Turrialba.  That is the nearest full size town to us. It is about an hour drive. There are supermarkets and lots of places to get good fruits and vegetables there as well as a good number of all purpose stores and pharmacies to stock our house with the little extras. Just southeast of Turrialba, you'll see a town labeled Moravia.  That was the original farm land our town was once a part of. We are a further east of there.

Geographically, we are surrounded by lush green mountains and clear flowing rivers that remind me of the Smoky Mountains to some extend. On an average day with high sun, it is about 75-80 degrees here. In the evening, the fog rolls in off the mountains and the nights and morning can be down right chilly, 50-60 degrees. 

Even with the cooler climate, we are still surrounded by tropical beauty, with hydrangeas and bougainvillea in full bloom at all times, banana, plantain, avocado, and a host of other tropical fruits growing in our own back yard, and lovely bromeliads adorning the branches of our trees.  

Right now, we are in the dry season, and it is quite easy to get around town on foot and to get to neighboring towns and villages by car. Once the rains return in June and July, things will get a little more complicated.

For now, we are just enjoying getting to know this place. I hope my heart never stops skipping when we curve our way through the mountains and I catch that wide open glimpse of the lush mountain side, or when I look up and realize that we are at the top of the range, with nothing between us and the sky, or when I walk our dusty roads and glance to my left to see the clear rippling waters of the river bubbling over its smooth rocks. I hope that no matter how familiar this place becomes, I always stop to look close at the flowers beneath my feet, the lightening bugs dotting the bushes in the evening and the clear expanse of millions of stars overhead at night.  

When God created this magnificent sphere of earth, He was already there, in the person of Jesus, commanding His disciples to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth, and in order to ensure that we would listen, He bestowed an extra helping of beauty of those ends.  I will forever be grateful for this great act of love.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Moments of Grace

The women of Suscipio have set aside Fridays to recognize the God's grace at work in their lives -- to document Moments of Grace in the midst of busy lives.  I'm sharing this week's "Unforgettable" moments there.  What about you -- where did you find grace this week? Join us to share, encourage, and uplift by recognizing the Giver of all good gifts and His grace at work in your life.  Share a blog post or picture, or leave a comment with your grace moment for the week.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


This week we have had our friend, a priest from the States here visiting us.  It has been a busy week, but a good one. Ministry is picking up in pace quickly as the priests introduce to more and more aspects of the work they do here and the need for additional help.

Last Sunday, we hosted a fiesta for our community in Grano de Oro after Mass. It was to honor the youth of our community as they begin a new year of school and catechism, but all were invited to attend.  We provided food and drinks, built an incredible bonfire and introduced the concept of s'mores. There was music and a clear sky full of stars.  We roasted most of the marshmallows for everyone as the fire was so hot it was nearly impossible to stay close to it for very long.  I handed roasted marshmallows smashed between cookies and chocolate to my new friends and smiled at their appreciation.  In one dark corner sat a mother holding her baby and her small son.  They were Chirripo, indigenous visiting town to buy, sell, or begin a longer voyage to another city.  The indigenous people are very shy with us, rarely talking to us or even making eye contact.  But this mother had joined us with her children that night and I wanted to make sure that she had her taste of the goodness that is s'mores.  It was dark, so I leaned in closely to ask her if she had already had one. Her baby slept peacefully in her arms as she sat rocking back in forth in the light of the fire. And as I began to speak and  I saw her face in its flames, I smiled wide. There she sat, face happily covered in sticky marshmallow and cookie crumbs. And she smiled back at me, wide and lively, as she shook her head yes.  She had tasted the goodness. And so had I. I pray I shall never forget the sweet joy I felt in that moment.

I pray too that that night that mother felt remembered, appreciated, cared for. That all of our community felt that. For is it not the longing of every human soul not to be forgotten? And isn't it easy, when we suffer with our day to day cares, to feel all alone in the world. Even in a house full of people or with our arms full of baby love, we can feel forgotten and alone.  And even more common, right there, in the center of our church, we can feel like no one notices us.

Yesterday, Padre Johnny came to our house early in the morning. We loaded up into his truck, the back full of happy boys, and headed up into the mountains to the indigenous villages closest to our town. The two priests of our mission are responsible for ministering the entire Chirripo reservation, thousands upon thousands of acres of mountain land dotted with small communities of people, our brothers and sisters, wanting to be remembered. They minister to some 40 communities, all of which lack proper chapels to gather for worship.  They walk for hours every week to visit, to baptize, to say Mass, to tell our brothers and sisters that they are not forgotten, that they are remembered by their church.

We stopped to visit one village and look at the land that a member of the community is willing to donate for the building of a proper chapel.  A man approached and introduced himself and we began to chat.  He was so thrilled for our presence and begged for us to help them.  He told us of their need for a chapel, of their need for help with ministering to their youth and the people of their village. He looked straight into my eyes as he told me of his fear that as his people lose their faith, they will lose their culture and their history.  My heart ached to do something right then and there.  I held his hand and listened. I promised that we would be back. I invited him to our home. I asked him to invite anyone in his village to our home.  It didn't seem enough.

He asked me not to forget them. Not to let the Church forget them. Oh, kind sir, if only you knew.  My heart is marked indelibly with the memory of that conversation. The blue sky, the mountain view, his hand in mine, his face lit with zeal for his faith, for his community, and his voice begging not to be forgotten.

God has not forgotten his people tucked away at the ends of the earth. He has charges us with the responsibility of bringing them His love. Oh, that we can find a way.  Please pray with me for the indigenous communities here and for their needs. Please pray for priests and missionaries to serve them.  Please pray for us to be able to find parishes who would be willing to help build their chapels.  And in their honor, today, find someone who needs it and make them feel remembered, special, loved.  Perhaps the end of the earth could be right there in your own home, your own office, your own church today?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

He Keeps Giving and I Keep Counting

Another week has come and gone and I am counting on, sharing graces, noticing with an attentive heart the ways God shows us His love very day. In a life that can sometimes feel lonely, it is a grace to give thanks, always turning my heart back to Him who loves and gives and is ever present, never leaving me to myself, always drawing me out, drawing me up, to think on things good and holy and lovely and eternal.

These photos are from our Sunday play at the river, just a stone's throw from our front yard.

25. For a change of pace just when my heart cried for it most.
26. For the man who loves enough to see my needs and meet them as best he can.

27. For the determination of little boys to do what they set their minds to.
28. Especially when the things they set their minds to makes a momma smile wide (Kolbe was determined to walk around the river in these fins. He did not give up easily. I could not stop giggling.)

29. That I have a friend here I like enough to miss.
30. And that she came home today.
31. For the conversation and laughter shared around her table this morning.

32. For the Lord's provision for transportation. Always there is a way to get where we need to be when we need to be there even without a car of our own.
33. For constant invitations to be somewhere.

34. For the gift of song and the way it lightens my heart when the daily duty seems redundant and tedious.
35. For boys who sing the hymns of faith loud and clear and confident in morning prayer.

36. For a long walk with my group of girls that opened the door a bit wider than shy smiles and awkward giggles. For the hope that real relationships will grow there.
37. For the Sign of Peace at Mass where everyone travels, everyone embraces. No one  nods or waves or looks the other way.

38. For e-mails and messages that encourage.
39. For a God who lives and breathes and speaks -- in His Word, in His Eucharistic presence, in His Church, in His people.

40. For an evening walk that we called a date that lingered on into the dark of night.
41. For a glass of wine offered and sip slow, savored.

42.  For a calendar gifted and filled with dates and activities scribbled in Spanish -- in my own hand. I am ever amazed that He has taught me this.

43. For a walk in the rain and a stop for ice cream -- the laughter at the irony of it all.

44. For the Super Bowl on TV and how ESPN International call to mind a friend I miss so dearly and brings her just a wee bit closer in my heart.

 45. For boys who jump bravely and smile wide at their valor.  And for their excitement at being caught in midair.

 46. For all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.

47. For eyes to really see those things and recall that Lord who made them all.

48. For morning glories blooming bright on the birthday of a friend who bears their name. For the quiet celebration of her life I had in my heart.

49. For a to -do list that filled only with ways to love, ways to serve, ways to really live.

50. For the people who give and pray and love from afar so that we have the grace to count on.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Find Me in Yet Another New Place

Today, I am sharing my heart over at Suscipio, a beautiful nice place for women of God "raise up, support, maintain" their shared faith.  I am honored to be part of this community of beautiful voices and do hope you'll give yourself a few moments today to stop by, read, and be inspired by this beautiful place. My post, Sandaled Feet on Dusty Roads is just one of many. Go, read, be inspired, live better, love more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Giving Thanks

So I am a little late toSo I am a little late to Ann's Monday Thanksgiving party but I know that the One for whom I count, He doesn't mind the dates, only the state of a heart. And mine, it's all filled up and overflowing with joy and peace and the gifts of this place, this time, these people I call husband and sons, family, and these I call "hermana y hermano", faces new, yet already etched deep into me. The breathtaking mountain views, fog clouds rising to reveal morning son, flowing rivers and trucks full of fruit -- they make my heart sing its song of thanks to Him who gives all good things.

1.For simple buildings that become Churches because He is present and we come.
2. For the prayer warriors who come, who pray, who kneel with us and implore Him for the salvation of souls.

3. For boys who pray hard, love deep and smile big.
4. For their scuffles to be the one who sits next to Mom each time we sit to pray.

 5. For the gift of childhood and that it lingers long in the hearts of my children.

 6. For dusty roads to be walked long and far in search of those who need Him.

 7. For open skies and green vistas and blue, clear blue heavens at which to gaze.

8. For the fruit of the earth growing right there in the reach of my finger tips.
9. For the detailed beauty of His creation, ever a reminder of the intimate way He loves.

10. For this man and the way he lives and the way he loves and the way he serves.
11. And for his sheer joy in this new adventure.

 12. See that friend laughing deep and long and wide in the back there? For her. And that smile. And all that is says about this day.

13. For the farmer and his feeding us with the work of his hands. And how it made me smile long thinking of another friend and her pig farming husband.
14. For his shy invitation and his care in providing all for us that day.

 15. For kids who find friends in every place and every time and play. Really play.

16. For boys almost men who become boys again under the arch of a turning rope.
17. For tentative words in languages not their own that open the door of relationship.

18. For this. This scene. Forever pressed in my heart journal. Sweet and pure and tender.

19. For a fire stoked all the day, offering treat after treat.
20. For cool mountain air and warm when day falls to night and cool becomes cold.

 21. For chocolate eyes that warm the soul.

22. For the green that speaks of new life and for the Life that speaks of Love who gives it me all as gift.

23. For strong, healthy bodies.

 24. For the work of our hands and the expected joy of what it will produce.

There are so many more to count. But night beckons and children drift off and a husband sighs deep with tiredness. So I shall count on as we sleep and awake to new reasons to count. Count with me? Count our blessings as yours? Look deep and long into your days and see the work of God? It will change you. For good.