Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beach road.

South Beach, this was not. Only a muddy, bumpy road, a few cinderblock homes, barbed wire fences, and farm animals. We drove to the beach in a golf cart, back and forth across the road to avoid the mud puddles. It was such a quiet little stretch and finally by the end of our week I hit the road on my own with cameras in tow. Were it not for the mosquitoes I would have spent more time framing shots.


Moo





I love the contrast between the delicate flowers and the fence

Cock-a-doodle-doo

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Photo editing.











I am thoroughly enjoying editing vacation photos! So many cool effects that take a decent shot to another level.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

After the boat.

Dramatic, right?

It was. But after an earnest talk with each other, and then with resort management, we sat down to dinner. And then we went to bed.

The next morning we woke up to jungle sounds and strong coffee, and had several more chats with management. We had some hard decisions to make - stay and try to make the best of it, or throw in the towel and go home?

We opted to stay.

I think we absolutely made the right decision. Had we gone straight home, we would have forever had entirely bitter feelings about the experience that is Costa Rica. We would have left in a state of fear and anxiety. Our kids might have learned that you never try to find healing and beauty after pain. They might have learned that it is always better to live in certain safety than to embrace life with all of it's twists and turn.

So we stayed, and the adventure continued. I do have more stories to tell. Would you believe me when I say that we even went on another boat ride? It was on a calm lake rather than the ocean, and the kids made certain there were life jackets for all... :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The boat.

Friends, I will admit this was a tough one to write. I have been telling this story in my head for about 10 days and honestly, it was not easy to put into words. I believe we endure trials not only because it strengthens our character, but also because we can share the story with others...

Imagine, you are in a foreign country. You don’t really speak the language but the people are friendly and you are overcome with how beautiful it is. Pictures don’t do it justice.

In this foreign country the ocean is near. The Pacific. You feel your vacation doesn’t really start until your feet are touching the salty water.

In the morning you play on the beach. It is deserted. There are butterflies flitting over your head, the waves are crashing against your legs, your suit is full of sand and you can’t believe you are finally, after all this time, here.

In the evening you get on a boat. Sightseeing, of course, at sunset. You have to walk through the water to climb on, because there is no dock. After all, this is a foreign country and they do things differently here.

As the boat takes off you notice the waves are choppy. The boat rocks back and forth and it’s not as comfortable as you thought it would be. It is small. And, there is no upper deck like you had been told. You know things can get lost in translation so instead you focus on the green hills in the distance. They are beautiful.

After awhile you see something in the water. Sea turtles. They are mating. You can’t believe you are actually witnessing this, a miracle of nature that you only read about in the encyclopedia.

The men driving the boat stopped the motor so you wouldn’t disturb the turtles. After the boat is past the turtles, the motor won’t restart. So the boat drifts along, past a sandy beach and closer to some rocks. It is quiet except for tink, tink, tink, tink, tink as they try to get the motor going. You try to focus on the green hills in the distance, although you notice that the wind has picked up and the clouds are building over your head.

Time goes by. They drop the anchor to keep your boat from drifting too close to the rocks. Sprinkles of rain hit your knees and you wonder how long you will have to sit here before the motor will be fixed. You are nervous and try not to show it, though if someone looked at your face closely they would see the concern building in your eyes.

Things get more frantic. The boat is getting closer to the rocks and you can hear the waves crashing against them. It is not a gentle sound. The men on the boat are acting more frantically, too. They are trying to get the anchor set along the ocean floor to keep the boat away from the rocks. One is pulling with all of his might against the anchor’s line, the other dons snorkel gear. And then dives in.

He dives down, moves the anchor. He surfaces, and catches his breath. Then the other man pulls the rope taut and the boat shifts a few inches in the water. The rain is coming down harder now and you are wet. But you don’t notice, because you are too busy watching the men perform this back-and-forth dance, dive-surface-breathe-pull. Dive-surface-breathe-pull.

You look behind you and the rocks are so close. They are sharp and slick and would not be a forgiving surface, were the boat to come too close. You are scared but still try not to show it.

Now, imagine you are a child on this boat. You might be six, or nine, or eleven. You are so scared that you are crying. You hear one of the men ask your daddy to jump into the water, to help move the anchor. Dive-surface-breathe-pull. You are terrified that he will not surface if he helps. You cry out and say, no daddy, don’t help! Please stay in the boat!

Imagine you are the daddy. You have been asked to help save this boat from the rocks and you will do all you can to help your family. But when you hear the cries of your children, you stop and reconsider. You say no, please, the children are too afraid for me to go. You look back at the rocks and wonder how the boat is staying away in the wind, the rain, and the choppy darkening sea.

Imagine now you are the mother of this family in peril. Your grip tightens around your children. Fear can clearly be read in your eyes, in the furrows on your brow, in the thin tight line of your lips. You hear the cries of your children and you hear your husband be asked to jump into the water. You silently say, no, please, don’t get in the water. Stay in the boat with the rest of us because you are terrified that he might not surface.

As the mother, you have to say something and through it all you have tried to explain that the motor doesn’t work and the men are trying to pull the boat to safety. Your grip is a vice on their thin arms. You hear the men say, the radio no work. You understand they do not have a phone and you are acutely aware there are no houses, no boats nor people anywhere. You are desperately alone. Your children are crying in earnest and it is all you can do to keep from crying, too. They ask you, mommy, what can we do?

Good question.

You answer, pray.

Just pray.

Dear Jesus, save us.

Your stomach drops as one of the men begins to pull life jackets from a compartment on the boat. He pulls out one, two. No more. You are shaking as you pull it over one child’s head and have to tie the strap in a knot because there is no buckle. You put the second one over your smallest child’s head…that one has no strap at all. It is only foam hanging loosely around her neck. You hear the man say in broken words that there are no more life jackets. There are seven people on board, but only two jackets.

The motor is broken. The radio is dead. The boat is barely anchored only yards away from slippery, sharp rocks that would surely cause damage to the boat, to bodies. There are not enough life jackets, and then one of the men says something that causes you to say oh, dear God.

He says to your husband, I’m sorry sir, but we’re going to have to swim.

As in, swim the children one by one through the open water and onto the slippery, sharp rocks. Swim you onto the rocks next. Then, if he's not too tired, get himself onto the rocks too. Then what? You don’t believe your children could navigate those rocks on foot. And even if they could, where would you go?

Your children continue to cry. They say they don’t want to die. They don’t want you or their daddy to die. They want to go home. And you wonder what it might be like to have a child drown. You try desperately not to cry. So you tell them, just pray.

You have them bow their head and fold their hands. You pray to Jesus. Please send help. Please save us. Please keep daddy safe and help these men and keep the boat away from the rocks and let it stop raining.

Please save us.

Your husband takes off his hat and shoes and begins to don snorkel gear and flippers. He will save his family.

But the fear can be read in his eyes, too.

Then, in the rain and the wind and over the crashing of the waves the Lord begins to answer your prayer. He whispers in your husband’s ear, have them test it first.

So your husband tells the men to go test the waters. Swim to the rocks and see if it would be safe before any children get pulled into the darkening sea.

One of the men listens, and swims to the rocks. He looks so small in the water. He comes back, breathless, and talks to the other man in a language you can’t understand.

The Lord is still working. His hand is in the middle of this and you know that but it is so hard because you are so scared. He whispers again to your husband, ask them to go for help. In his broken language he tells the Lord’s message to the men, get help. You swim to shore and get help. We will stay safe on the boat and wait.

The man agrees. It is so hard to watch him swim to shore and know that he is safe and you are not. You see him skim across the rocks in his bare feet. He is so good at it and he goes so quickly. Your husband sees him running farther up the shoreline, then out of sight.

It is dusk and the rain is now a downpour. You are soaked, and chilled, and trembling. You have not released your grip on your children who continue to cry. The other man, the one on the boat, finds a tarp and covers the children with it. Small mercies.

You all shift your positions a few times to shelter from the rain. You are thankful for hats that can shield your face. You pray silently in your head, please save us. Please save us. Please. Save. Us.

You look back and you see that the boat is farther away from the rocks. It’s like Jesus is in the water, guiding the boat with his hands. And He’s holding it steady, away from danger. You know Jesus is near you because you have no other hope but in Him.

Time goes by. The rain continues but you are used to it by now and you know it is one of your lesser concerns. You watch the horizon, where the sun is setting behind a haze of clouds, and wonder if a boat will come. You think you see something but you don’t. You shift around again and wonder when the nightmare will end.

Your prayer to Jesus is a mantra in your head. You know He is holding the boat away from the rocks and you know that he is the Savior not only of the dead, but of the living as well. Your hope in Him is the only light you can see by.

And then. A boat! The promise of safety! It is a small blur on the horizon that grows larger in the darkening night. Slowly, so slowly. But it is coming and you thank Jesus, thank you, for the man who went for help and sent a boat. Thank you for saving us.

You help your children climb into the new boat and help them stay safe among the knives and heavy anchors rattling on the floor and the dark men that all speak a language you don’t understand. You hope they know Jesus, too. You endure the ride back to shore while thinking this isn’t over until it’s over.

Finally, land. Your children are lifted onto shore by the dark men and you are helped, stumbling, through the water and onto the rocks where you climb, still trembling, to the van with blazing lights that is waiting to drive you away from this place.

In the van you weep. It is your turn now. Your hand clutches your husband’s hand. You can tell he wondered about the same things you did while on the boat. You are grateful that he was so willing to get in the water. You are grateful that his prayers echoed yours. You are grateful for your Savior, who heard your cries and came to your rescue.

Falling on my knees in worship
Giving all I am to seek your face
Lord all I am is yours
My whole life
I place in your hands
God of Mercy
Humbled I bow down
In your presence at your throne
I called you answered
And you came to my rescue and I
I want to be where you are
In my life be lifted high
In our world be lifted high
In our love be lifted high

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The muddy road.


I'm thinking it makes sense to tell my Costa Rica stories in chronological order...so here goes!

We were so excited to finally get to Costa Rica after months of planning - going in June we knew we would be there in the rainy season. We couldn't wait to get our first glimpses of the country from the air to see the green hills and volcanoes and blue coastline! Our plane descended through clouds, clouds, clouds...and we landed in the pouring rain. Pouring. The airport is not quite as "modern" as ones in the States, so even the big planes empty onto the tarmac and you walk around the building to go through customs - basically a big hangar that is open on either end. We slogged through ankle-deep water (with each of us toting our carry-on suitcases), went through customs, and finally found our driver to take us on the 1.5 hour drive to get to our resort.

Our kids quickly lost patience with the rain, because you couldn't see much along the drive. They nodded off and Kirk and I tried our best to see bits of the countryside - the city Liberia, cattle farms, hills in the distance, and once or twice thinking that maybe we saw a volcano or two. We hit the town La Cruz and ended up on a dirt road - one we had read about as being long, bumpy, and probably 45 minutes worth of our ultimate drive time.

It was at this point that we had a new perspective on the landscape, realizing we hadn't seen anything yet. We were looking out onto misty mountainsides and deep valleys that were absolutely breathtaking.

About 20 minutes into this part of the drive we came to a stop. There were a few cars parked ahead of us, with their occupants out in the rain looking over a ridge. Women and children were walking past us in the opposite direction, many wearing outfits that most definitely were not meant to be worn in the mud (white pants and heels? yeah, not so much). Our driver got out to see what was going on, and as we craned our necks we realized there was a bus that had gotten stuck in the mud further down on the steep hill. It was turned just enough that cars could not get past. Just our luck, right? We are 20 minutes away from our final destination and while we are not exactly stuck, we might as well be!

Kirk made a comment at this point, something to the effect that wouldn't it be great for our resort to send someone else to pick us up on the other side of the bus? I agreed but privately was glad that at least the kids were being quiet and were old enough to handle waiting in a parked car for awhile.

No sooner had Kirk made the comment, however, when from a distance we saw a young, blond guy walking up the hill - Kirk leaned over and said, "Oh, that guy just looks American. I bet he's coming for us,". Sure enough, he soon tapped on our window and leaning in said, "Hi, I'm Mike and if you're willing to get out and walk just a little way, we have a truck waiting on the other end of the bus." He even had 5 umbrellas in his hand. Saved!

We hauled out of our van, grabbed our luggage (so smart of us to pack lightly, thank you very much), and proceeded to navigate our way down the wet hillside. Grace stepped onto a piece of rusty barbed wire (oh-my-goodness-when-was-her-last-tetanus-shot? was running through my mind at this point) but onwards we slogged, out into the muddy road and finally down to the waiting truck. Also smart of us to be wearing our all-terrain wet/dry sandals rather than flip flops!

It took another 20 minutes or so before we were finally pulling into our resort, Recreo. Steep roads (but gravel, not mud!), pretty flowers, and a nice dry villa awaited us. We knew we were signing on for some adventure in planning a trip to Costa Rica - we chalked up our muddy, rainy roadside rescue as just one of the unexpected adventures that we would experience!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacation.

After a week in the Costa Rican countryside we are home again. Costa Rica is stunning and pictures just don't do it justice! We are especially proud of our kids who were rock stars all week...from navigating a muddy roadside to facing fears on a zip line, from crossing the border into Nicaragua to enduring a terrifying rescue on the ocean. The majority of our trip was fun and relaxing and beautiful, so I will make sure to share many stories and experiences from that aspect. Only one story in particular (terrifying rescue) is hard to tell and I need to compose my thoughts before I put that one into words. Rest assured we are fine, with no more than a few scrapes, a little sunburn, lots of bug bites, and many memories!