Tag Archives: vacation

Where I learned something about myself


A few weeks ago my husband and I went away for the weekend, just by ourselves.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we have left our children and had a weekend getaway.  We have been in full time ministry for the last 20 years and we’ve been parents for more than 17 of those years.  Weekend getaways have been few and far between.  But this year we started the year with putting two dates on the calendar before any others.  We blocked out a week vacation for a “stay-cation” at the end of summer and we blocked out a weekend away just for us.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

22 Kilometers (just under an hour) of winding, climbing dirt road.

We chose a new location to explore on our getaway.  We took the very, VERY bumpy and long road up to Monteverde Cloud Forest.  As we climbed up and up the mountainous dirt road separating the coastal highway from the high-altitude forest preserve, I enjoyed the scenery and the ever changing flora without the bickering of siblings and the tired, whining demands of children behind me.  We played the music WE wanted to hear.  We stopped and took pictures where WE wanted to stop.  We bought and ate the gas station snacks that WE wanted to eat.  It was lovely.

Up, up in the clouds it was cool and damp.  It was the most Fall-like weather I’ve ever experienced in the tropics.  This Minnesota girls who was starting to miss the seasonal changes got her “fall fix” and was happy.  Our hotel was at the very end of the road, just before the entrance to the National Park.  It was quiet up there.  I liked that… a lot!

The little town of Santa Elena which services the tourists coming to the cloud forest was a kitschy little collection of souvenir shops, typical Costa Rican restaurants, and “Extreme” tourism offices.  If Wisconsin Dells were transported to the Swiss Alps, that would describe Santa Elena and Monteverde.  It was cute.  After all, who doesn’t love “Reptile World” and souvenir magnets?  We ate at an amazing restaurant built into a tree.  We pretended that the Swiss Family Robinson had opened a restaurant in Costa Rica.  The food was so tasty that we went back for dinner the next night too!

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant... the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

Eating at the Tree House Restaurant… the original Rainforest Cafe, I suppose.

We decided to skip the zip lining adventure since we’ve done that a million times.  And we didn’t pay to go into the National Park.  It’s been our experience that animals pay no attention to the boundary lines of parks.  They go where the food is, hence, where the people are.  So we skipped that.  We took a very disappointing night hike with an Israeli family who talked incessantly and loudly, successfully warning any animals of our presence.  The best part about the night-hike was the gigantic tarantula we found in a dead tree stump.  Note to self:  if you’re ever lost in the jungle in the night, do NOT place your back against a dead tree unless you want to be instantly covered in prehistoric sized insects of all varieties.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

After the successful ATV tour through the cloud forest.

But the absolute best part of the weekend was that I drove an ATV (4 wheeler) for the first time!  Josh had gone before a few times, but it was my first time.  I mainly agreed to do it for my husband’s sake.  I was the only girl in the group.  I was super nervous and cautious at first.  But once I got the hang of it, I could keep up with the men no problem.  And guess what.  It was a BLAST!  I was so proud of myself for learning to drive it and for being brave.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be doing that again!

We also spent plenty of time just reading quietly, examining birds through binoculars while sitting in our front window, and just being together… without kids!  It was a wonderful weekend getaway.  We came home feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenges that life and ministry would bring our way.  We decided we need to do that more often.  It was lovely.

Fringe Benefits: The side of missionary life that doesn’t make newsletters


A couple years ago I had a Facebook friend that I had to “hide” because her posts were making me so jealous.  Her husband has his own business and she spends her life shopping and lounging on tropical beaches.  But the weird thing was that it wasn’t so much that I envied her life of luxury and leisure- it was that I envied her freedom to share those cool things without being condemned by others.  I figured, my life is just as cool as her life (in different ways) but I don’t feel the same freedom to talk about it like she does.  She doesn’t have supporters back home reading newsletters, I reasoned.  So rather than deal with my own jealousy, I just hid her so I didn’t have to look at her beautiful pictures anymore.

The beach where we spent our best day ever.The truth is that although often times I write about how difficult missionary life can be, most days I wake up and feel like the Luckiest Girl in the World!  Most days I still can’t believe that I GET to live here and to do what I do (When I’m not flying around in a cape saving the world, I’m a mild mannered English teacher).  I feel so blessed and spoiled by my Father God.  I live in a tropical country where the beach is just a 2 hour drive away.  Parrots fly over my head every morning.  I pass palm trees and people selling tropical flowers and street vendors with trucks full of mangos and Jeeps with surf boards strapped to the roof every day in my commute.  I shiver when the temps drop to 60 degrees Farrenheit.  And my “cup runneth over” with the best coffee in the world!  I live in Costa Rica.  I am a Blessed Girl!

So today I am going to be THAT girl who revels in her wonderful life.  I’m going to write about the best visa trip we ever took.  We used to have to leave the country every 90 days to renew our visas (now we’re in the process of getting our residency- so no more visa trips).  Here in Costa Rica we are bordered by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South.  This particular year our visas were coming due in December.  We didn’t have the money to go all the way to Minnesota for Christmas, so we scheduled a trip to Panama during our kids’ Christmas break.  Christmas overseas is not as exciting as Christmas in America.  Tamales and Bull Fights just don’t say “Christmas” to this Minnesota girl.

So since we were feeling “blah” about Christmas we decided to spend a bit of our Christmas money and stay somewhere nice with some of our friends while in Panama.  We chose Bocas del Toro, a string of islands on the Caribbean side of Panama.  On the map it looked like we could take a boat from the last port in Costa Rica directly to the island.  In reality the trip down was more like the deleted scenes from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”.  Ports were closed, water taxis were hired, busses and taxi vans meant crowding in shared transportation without air conditioning.  Basically the trip down was horrific.  But once we arrived… it was all forgotten.  We found paradise!

We stayed on Playa Tortuga.  With our friends we were two of about 5 other families in the entire hotel.  The rooms were nothing special, but the ocean was literally right at our toes.  I love looking for shells on the beach.  I’ve always dreamed of finding a perfect conch shell.  On this trip I found several small ones right on the beach.  I was thrilled!

Lucy finds Patrick StarOne day we decided to hire a taxi to go to the other end of the island.  From there we hired a water taxi to take us to another island that was famous for it’s giant starfish.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived at the beach!  There were starfish every few feet!  It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

Unfortunately about 10 minutes into our stay at Starfish Beach, the children started crying.  There was something sharp and pokey floating around in the water.  It was like fiberglass strands!  They got between our toes and in our swim suits.  We started picking out the slivers (and didn’t stop for the next 2 days).  After about 10 more minutes we couldn’t stand it any more.  We hailed another boat and asked to be taken back to our island.  For the rest of the afternoon we snorkeled and swam and built sand castles on the most perfect secluded beach.  We had the whole place to ourselves.  It was my best day ever!!

That night as we wandered into town to find something to eat we were surprised to find that the town was preparing for a parade, complete with fireworks and “floats” made from pickup trucks and delivery vans, Caribbean music and firefighters tossing candy to the children.  It was fantastic and carefree!  We had so much fun.  What a perfect end to the perfect day, not a bad way to spend Christmas.  Back at home, I have a conch shell that I keep as a reminder of what a Blessed life I lead.  I really am the Luckiest Girl in the World, but that’s a story you’ll never read in our newsletters.