Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Days like Thanksgiving can be hard for those of us serving overseas, far away from our families and without all of the resources to make the traditional Thanksgiving meal we grew up with.  It helps me to remind myself of some of the unique blessings I have because of the life of ministry we are living here in Costa Rica.  Here are my top ten:

1. Surrounded by natural beauty

Seriously, I so often look around and think, "I can't believe I live here!"  While we live real life here (and not the resort life some may associate with Costa Rica), we are blessed with daily views of God's amazing creation.  Whether it's in the breathtaking views of mountains and volcanoes I see just driving around town, or in the intricate details of the tropical flowers and birds in my garden, the natural beauty I witness here is awe-striking.

one of our favorite views in our Costa Rican hometown

2.   Good coffee and fresh produce

I was not a coffee drinker before moving to Costa Rica.  But, we live in a coffee town here; the coffee we drink is grown, harvested, dried and roasted here in our little town.  It's really, really good... and has converted me into a coffee lover.  We are also spoiled year-round with wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables from our farmer's market.  We might not have easy access to cranberries or pecans for today's Thanksgiving dinner, but the local fruit here always tastes so much more real (does that make sense?).  One time after taking a bite of pineapple in the States, our son scrunched up his face and said, "That is NOT piña!" (piña = pineapple)

our kids watching a local farmer dry his coffee beans

3.  Small town living

While it took some adjusting, I love living in a small, Costa Rican town.  I love that whenever I'm out running errands, I almost always run into someone I know.  I love that our kids (along with pretty much every other school kid in the whole town!) are in the Independence Day parade and that our son has been part of the town's yearly musical festival.  I love being able to walk to the stores, and I love sitting in our central park and people watching.  Life in a big city appeals to me, too, but I am thankful for our little town during this stage in our lives.

our daughter in our town's Independence Day parade

4.   Worshipping in a second language

One of my dreams when we moved here was that my Spanish would improve to a point where I could truly worship and commune with God in Spanish.  It's been a long process that included a lot of Sundays of standing outside the church building in the intense tropical sun, bouncing my crying baby in a sling (can you mamas relate?), or arriving home from church completely exhausted from the mental work of staying engaged in Spanish during the worship, sermon, and conversations.  But, now I feel that I can truly worship God in Spanish, and it gives such a precious glimpse of eternity worshipping Him with people from every nation and language.

worshipping with our church here
5.  Women's ministry

I love working together with some other women from our church to build up our women's ministry and to reach out to other women in our community.  I am blessed and challenged each week as I facilitate a women's Bible study and work to encourage and strengthen other women.  This ministry strongly pulls at my heart, and sharing my heart and life with these women is one of my main highlights of our life here in Costa Rica.

this year's women's conference - an outreach event to our community

6.  Life of adventure

I'm sure that this is true for you all, too; choosing to live in another country has opened us up to a life of adventure.  Whether it's going after a snake with a machete, or maintaining the constant battle with the ants, or tackling the red tape adventures of the immigration department, life is never without a new adventure here.  We also get to enjoy the adventure of exploring new places, learning a new language, and meeting new people. 

one of our favorite Costa Rican adventures - a hike to this turquoise river

7.  Kid-loving culture

One of my first impressions when we moved here with a baby was that Costa Ricans absolutely adore children!  Babies and children are usually the recipient of admiration and love wherever they go.  Especially during this stage of parenting little children, it is such a blessing to live in a culture where kids are so highly valued and loved.  Our kids are growing up far away from our families, but they have many Costa Rican "grandparents," "aunts," and "uncles."

our kids having fun with our pastor - one of their Costa Rican "uncles"

8.  Closeness as a family

Sharing in this adventure (with both its highs and lows!) together has made us grow closer as a couple and as a family.  Building a new life in a new country has strengthened us in ways that I don't think we would have experienced elsewhere.  Our kids have a very close relationship, maybe because, as third culture kids, there are few other kids their age that understand them as fully as their sibling does.
our little family in front of our home sweet Costa Rican home

9.  Changed perspective

My perspective has changed throughout our years living here.  I find myself being thankful more often for things that I used to take for granted.  Hearing the pelting rain on our metal roof six months of the year has led me to thank God for simply the roof over our heads more than I ever did before (even if there are several persistent leaks!).  The reality of frequent power outages and having water coming into our house from the street only certain hours of the day makes me so thankful when the light does turn on with the flip of a switch, or when water pours out of the faucet in more than a trickle.  Additionally, living in a more event-focused culture, rather than my native time-oriented culture, has taught me to slow down and invest more in what is truly important: relationships.

10.  New home

Something clicked after about two years living in Costa Rica, pretty soon after our daughter was born here.  This started to feel like home.  Now, four years later, this definitely feels like home... to the extent that I feel a little strange and out of place when we are visiting the States.  I don't quite "fit" there any more, but, at the same time, I don't completely "fit" here either.  I'm kind of a foreigner in either place!  This has led me to a greater understanding that my true home is in Christ, with the hope and promise of an eternal home with Him.

with the flag of our adopted earthly home
We all probably find ourselves this Thanksgiving at different places in our thankfulness about our host countries.  Some of you may still be in the honeymoon phase of feeling like everything is wonderful!  Others may be just out of that stage and in full-on culture shock, finding it hard to like anything, really.  And, still others may be in a place where you can more realistically see both the good and the challenges of where you live.  Whichever category you fit in, I'd encourage you today to list some of what you love about your host country and culture.  Count your blessings!

Would you share with us some of your favorite things about where you live and serve?  Or, even do a similar top ten list and leave a link to your blog in the comments?  


  1. I love this!! My family is currently serving in Puerto Rico and for about a week now I've been considering writing my own "Top 10 Things I Love About Puerto Rico" list. Similar to you, coffee will be close to the top of that list! Thank you for posting this!! So much of it really spoke to my heart and to my experience in my first year as a missionary in a place where, like Costa Rica, many assume we are living some kind of "resort life."

    1. Thank you, Annette! So fun to know that you could identify with this. I'd love it if you posted a link to your blog post about your top ten for Puerto Rico!

  2. Thanks for this, Sarah! This all resonates with me as well - after 2 years in Costa Rica a while back and now 4 in Honduras! Even though there are many differences between Honduras and Costa Rica, I would echo most of your top 10 as my own. It is so important for us to focus on these positive aspects - especially on those hard days!