God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 7: Each Moment

CRwaterfallThis is the final installment in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Follow the links below to read the previous installments:



A few captured moments:

My group found this really cool restraunt with a giant plane next to it. Here’s my sister Abby and me in the cockpit:


A sample of some of the wonderful food (and smoothies!) I got to eat in Costa Rica:


Abby and me enjoying a fantastic breakfast: a smoothie, fresh-squeezed orange juice, banana pancakes, bacon, and fruit:




Abby and me on the beach our last evening in Costa Rica:


From my travel journal:


We’re on the plane now, headed home to the U.S. To the place where my heart’s belonged for the past 21 years. Only now, I feel like a piece of it lives each of the places we visited in Costa Rica, Central America. And these pieces will stay there, living and breathing and beating alongside the other hearts I’ve come to know and love during this trip.

Yesterday we went back to the 14-year-old girl’s home, where some of the money we had with us went to purchase a new roof. The new roof had already been put on when we got there, and when I looked up to take a picture of it, a single word flashed into my head: HOPE.


I thought of how we are all like that roof. We start out with holes in us, and because of our brokenness, bad things constantly destroy us: sin, the world, etc. But then Jesus comes—or uses someone—to bring us hope. He doesn’t just fix the brokenness or patch up the holes, but rather, He makes us new. The Scriptures say:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Create in my a pure heart, O God…” – Psalm 51:10

The Scriptures don’t say: “fix my heart that’s messed up.”

The Bible also says:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” –Ezekiel 36:26

When we receive Christ, we’re made new, whole, complete. And that’s what I saw when I looked at the new, spotless roof.

Usually, the first part of a trip seems to pass slowly, then the rest rushes by. But this time, the whole thing flew by so fast I constantly reminded myself to take hold of each moment, cherishing it as the beautiful, precious gift form God that it is.

The abundant life is here, it’s now. It’s within our grasp if we’ll only reach out and take the hand of the One who leads us faithfully through rain forests, beside waterfalls, up mountains. Through life.

Lord, thank You for this opportunity to experience Costa Rica with some of my dearest friends and church family. Thank You for the experiences, the memories, the laughter, the tears. The unbridled joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.


As the plane lifted off the ground, my vision clouded and I remembered the things I’ve experienced this past week. From the mighty mountains haloed by clouds, to the roar of the howler monkeys that woke us p at 5:00am the first morning, to the faces of people living with abandon…all for our King.

The creation sang His praise in resounding choruses and brilliant colors.Created for His pleasure, but revealed to us on this trip. Words cannot describe these experiences, but my heart overflows with a song of thanks to my Creator. A song I will share through words, deeds, and love every day I’m alive.

You, Lord, are worth it all. Thank you, Father. Thank you.

Amen, amen.


God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 6: Where Life Starts

This is part six in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Follow the links below to read the previous installments:

Come back Thursday for the final installment in the series!

The week before the mission trip, I went to the dentist. I’m one of those weird people who actually looks forward to going to the dentist, so I was excited. Plus, our dentist is a really strong Christian. The staff is extremely friendly, and the local Christian radio station always plays in the office. I always feel welcome there.

After checking my teeth, and while I was still reclined in the chair, my dentist placed his strong hands on my shoulder and prayed a blessing over our team, our trip, and the people we would meet there.

It was an incredible moment for me. First, it was one of those times when I actually felt the Holy Spirit breathing on me. I can’t remember everything he said exactly, but I know it was exactly what my heart had been thirsting to hear; what my soul had been needing.

One of the things I do remember clearly is that he asked God to break my heart for what breaks His, because “it’s a good break.” I don’t know why, but that line resonated within me throughout the entire trip, and even now as I think back on the experience. Can a broken heart really be “good”? Oh, a thousand times yes.

From my travel journal:

We had a pool party with some kids from the orphanages today. One little girl stole my heart. I couldn’t understand her and she couldn’t understand me, but she would just look at me and smile with her big, chocolate doe eyes and tiny teeth. She had two dark chocolate French braids, round little cheeks, and cinnamon skin. She must be three or four. And she’s an orphan.

God, I pray she knows the love of a forever family soon. That the little girl who held my hand and giggled and wanted me to hold her would be loved and cuddled and kissed and told about Jesus. I love her even though I’m not sure I even know how to spell her name. Protect her, please Lord, and show Your precious creation Your love and Your grace. Make Yourself and Your peace known in the little lives at the orphanage.


Yesterday we went into the village and handed out goodie bags. We also had some Spanish coloring books and crayons  to give away, along with the pictures we took of some families at church on Sunday.

The longer we were in the village, the more children flocked to us, wanting extra bags for their siblings.

After that, we went to the home of a fourteen-year-old girl and her eleven month old baby. Her house had a dirt floor and no electricity. The roof had holes in it, which meant the floor turned to mud whenever it rained.


It really broke everyone’s heart, even though the girl was used to living that way. It reminded me of what my dentist said when he prayed a blessing over me last week: “It’s a good break.”

We had some extra money for the trip, so today we’re going to buy the supplies for her to have a new roof. What the whole thing really did for me, though, was break my heart for America. Because poverty in America isn’t even poverty when compared to the lifestyle here, and yet those with plenty have endless complaints. It makes me almost ashamed to be from a place so rich and spoiled.

But it also makes me realize this: I’ve seen poverty here. This is where life starts. This is where you turn yourself—with God’s help—into a channel of blessing, receiving God’s blessings and blessing others with them. This is where you realize why you live in such abundance—so you can give abundantly. This is where the decision to stop living for yourself and start living fully for Jesus is made. It’s where faith becomes real and you decide there’s no turning back. Ever.

If your faith is real, you’ll start moving mountains with the help of the One in whom you place that faith. Even if it looks crazy—loco—to the rest of the world. Even if you’re laughed at, mocked, taken advantage of, rejected. It doesn’t matter, because it’s the Lord Christ you are serving.

God, give me the endurance to make this feeling last. To never take this for granted. To never give up, because You sure don’t. My dentist was right—it’s a good break. A very good break. A necessary break. Like the missionary down here said: I wish all Americans were required to spend a week in a country like this, and then go home and try to complain about their lives again. It would change our nation.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 5: Hearing Hearts

This is part five in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Follow the links below to read the previous installments:

I took French in high school, then four semesters of French in college. That means, while I’m not fluent, I can carry on a basic conversation. And discuss flying buttresses (that was a fun chapter), but I’ve never even had a need to do that in English. But still. French.

The people of Costa Rica don’t speak French, though. Some of them can speak English, but Spanish is the primary language, which means my years of foreign language study were pretty obsolete on the trip. Some Spanish words sound really similar to French words, and some of the structure is familiar, but it’s still a very different language.

But here’s what I found: When I heard Spanish being spoken, rather than trying to come up with some Spanish vocab that I knew (quesadilla, enchilada, taco, salsa…), my brain searched for something other than English. And what did it come up with? French.

Even though I’m not fluent in French, sometimes my mind heard something in Spanish, tried to switch it to French, then translate it to English. On the plus side, the trip showed me I know a lot more French than I gave myself credit for! But most of the time, I was like, “Really? Thanks, brain. That’s so very helpful.”

For example, several times I said “oui” rather than “si” to a waiter at a restaurant. I would also spout “s’il vous plait” instead of “por favor.” And then, you know, an enthusiastic “bonjour!” or “je m’appelle Anna,” instead of “hola” and “mi llamo Anna.” There were also colors, numbers, and “where’s the bathroom” phrases to contend with, too.

Thankfully, though, I was able to add several Spanish words and phrases to my vocabulary. I actually surprised myself with how much I retained. My favorite Spanish word is probably—wait for it—queso. So I made up my own expression for when something was really good: Queso bueno!

Yes, it means “good cheese.” And yes, it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Sort of. I thought it was perfect, but I think everyone got tired of hearing it by Day 2. It’s still an active part of my vocabulary, though. Queso bueno!

The language barrier, I found, ended up not being much of a barrier at all, but rather provided opportunities for us to understand each other in deeper ways.

From my travel journal:

Today we went to a local church. The windows were open, and I sat by one of them. I could look out to my right and see a breathtaking view of the mountains, covered in various shades of green.

Oh, green! So much green! Signs of life, of growth, of new beginnings. Evidence of a Provider who brings the rain in its due time. So much green.

During the service, I couldn’t understand the words of the songs – couldn’t even try to understand – because they were in Spanish. But in a way, I was glad. I couldn’t hear the words, but I could hear what their heart sounds like; the purest, truest essence of their soul spilling out in the language I’m coming to love more and more.

That’s true worship, right? Worship is more than the words we say and how we say them. True love for our Lord transcends all barriers, knocks down all walls, breaks all chains. It’s something you feel. Not like happy emotions, but rather something deeper. Something that starts in your core and stirs and swells until it can’t help but overflow from your heart. That’s what I heard during the service. There was no way I could even try to understand what the people were saying, so I stopped trying. Instead, I stood there and listened to something much more sacred: I listened to hearts. I listened to Love, a language that truly knows no barriers.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” – Psalm 150:6

Dios te ama!



God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 4: Deep Calls to Deep

This is part four in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Follow the links below to read the previous installments:

From my travel journal:


We took surf lessons yesterday afternoon from two native Costa Ricans. They took us out to the beach and gave us a tutorial on land before taking us out to the water. It was raining throughout the duration of the lesson. They had us lay down in the sand on an invisible surfboard. The dark gray sand instantly clung to us like the little magnetic fuzzy pieces in a Wooly Willy toy from the Cracker Barrel gift shop.

Everyone from our group was spread out on the sand, looking like soldiers in a lineup…or a bunch of beached whales.

We were told to discover our dominant foot by jumping to a standing position. Whichever sixe we were facing was most likely our dominant side. We jumped up a couple more times to be sure of which side felt the most natural.

Here’s how they told us to get up:

– Lay flat on the center of the “board” (or sand…)

– Bring your hands in close to your chest.

– Make a “4” with the leg that will end up in the back once you’re standing.

– Raise your chest up, bring your bent leg up under you, and push up.

– Stay low on the board.

-The arm facing front is out-stretched, but the arm in the back is for balance and stays bent with your hand near your chest.

The boards themselves were surprisingly light – maybe 10ish pounds . They were just bulky and you had to stretch your arm around them to hold them. Rough wax was rubbed on top of the boards ,and your skin would stick to the board and pull if you weren’t careful.

A storm was beginning to roll over the mountains, so there was a lot of wind and the waves were rough. A drizzle covered us as we made our way out to the water, boards under our arms. We were told to fasten the straps to our ankles with the cord facing out, that way we wouldn’t get tangled up in it. Once in the water, we walked/waded alongside the boards with one hand on the tail and the other on the middle of the board. That way, when a wave came, we could push down on the bottom of the board and it would go over the waves.

We were told to take a wave once you could see the white cap. We stayed about waist-deep in the water, and when we saw a wave, we turned our board toward the shore, hopped on, and began paddling slowly. Then, as the wave got closer, we started paddling more quickly. Or at least, that was the plan. In reality, it all happened so fast I barely made it on the board in time. Once we felt the wave beneath us, we stood up…or tried. Balancing has never really been my thing.

Despite the rough water, surfing was a lot of fun, and I’d love the opportunity to surf again!



We went to a waterfall today. I was reminded of this verse, which I memorized while preparing for Costa Rica and the waterfalls I was told I’d see:


“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.” – Psalm 43:7


I think about being flooded with the Father’s love; sinking in that ocean of grace; drinking in His mercies, which are new every morning.

– Anna


God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 3: Clearly Seen

This is part three in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

One of the coolest parts of the mission trip to Costa Rica was that I got to go with some of my closest friends. After surviving high school together, we went our separate ways for college, but I still count them as some of my best friends. And, in a way, it was like reliving those days of sleepovers and laughing fits, only it was a week-long, God-serving adventure of a lifetime.

My sister, three friends, and I all camped out in one bedroom. The floor was covered with mattresses, suitcases, and whatever no one felt like finding a place for. Within moments of arriving, it already looked like a storm had come through the room. It was awesome.

Around 5:00 the first morning, a noise woke me up. I froze, my hands clutching the blanket, trying to figure out what it was. Honestly, it sounded like a bear was trying to break into our room. It was an extremely loud roaring noise…and extremely scary. I noticed my sister was awake, too, so I tiptoed around an air mattress and asked her if she knew what it was.

“It sounds like a donkey getting sawed in half!” She whispered.

The next morning, the rest of my roommates said they’d also heard the noise. So we asked what it was. Here’s the culprit:


Know what that is? That’s right. It’s a howler monkey! Right outside our window! After learning a large pack of these critters were the reason we woke up in the middle of the night, we went out to the back balcony. Sure enough, there they were, hanging out in the trees. This particular guy just gazed at us, scratching his arm and head. He seemed to say, “Is there a problem, fools?”

How  cool is that, though? I have squirrels outside my bedroom window at home, but monkeys? Amazing!

As the week progressed, my group and I had the opportunity to see so many different creatures.

From my travel journal:

Yesterday we went to a national park. We walked through a nature trail for maybe 1 1/2 miles until we came to a string of gorgeous beaches.



We saw so many different kinds of wildlife! Sloths, monkeys (and babies – probably my favorite part!), iguanas, deer, butterflies, and raccoons.



The racoons would come up to us and our stuff, and it was nearly impossible to scare them away. I’d never seen live raccoons before.


The beaches were beautiful, too, with their silky sand, thousands of tiny hermit crabs, and crags the waves crashed over.


We picnicked near the beach, then spent some time swimming, bobbing over the waves, and laughing as the current tried to drag us out to sea.

Last night after dinner, our pastor asked us to share something we had never done before until this trip. Honestly, I thought it would’ve been easier to share things I have done before, since the new experiences are so numerous.


Sometimes we grow so accustomed to the wonders around us that we become jaded. And sometimes it takes leaving your familiar surroundings to encounter a renewed sense of awe at God’s great creation. Creation that is created for His glory, but shared with us so that we can taste just a little bit of his majesty here on Earth. Creation is proof of a Creator, and His glory can be clearly seen.

“You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” – Nehemiah 9:6

“How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.” – Psalm 104:24-25 (NIV)

Look around you. Experience the world He’s made. Breathe in His grace. Know that God is who He says He is, and He delights in His creation—He delights in you.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 (NIV)

In His love,


God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 2: Beneath His Feet

This is part two in a series where I share pieces of my Costa Rica travel journal. Click here for part one.

From my travel journal, written somewhere thousands of miles above the ocean:


I’m on an airplane for the 1st time in nearly a decade. I’ve been a little anxious about the whole flying thing, but those fears fled the moment we began taxiing down the runway. Weird, but perfect timing.


This is a little weird, too, but when we first broke through the layer of soft clouds, I was reassured of this: I am loved like crazy by the Creator of these clouds. And then my next thoughts were of Nahum 1:6, which says, “The clouds are the dust beneath His feet.”


Dust. Small, insignificant. Not necessary. And yet, here I find myself, enveloped in the warmth and love and peace of the Creator of these clouds—the Creator of me. And He wants to use me, too, on this trip. For His glory, for His purpose, for His relentless pursuit of those He loves. What an honor that I, who dwell beneath the dust of His feet, am called to serve Him who is most excellent in Costa Rica this week!

Father, be in us. Be with us. Surround us, protect us, and most importantly, use us for your perfect purpose.

– Anna


“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.” – Psalm 8:3-5

God Talks, My Costa Rica Journey

My Costa Rica Journey Part 1: Into the Nations


It all started with a phone call from my mom as I was on my way to meet a friend for milkshakes. The Pastor said there’s still space on the mission team. Do you want to go to Costa Rica?

Costa Rica. Central America. A country I’d never before explored. Do I want to go to Costa Rica? Does God want me to go to Costa Rica? Lord, is this what You want me to do with my summer?

I’d known about the mission trip for several months, but the deadline to sign up had passed during a rough spot in my life. I’d been dealing with some difficult things at school and hadn’t been able to look beyond the Spring semester enough to plan out my summer. I just wanted to finish my classes before thinking about anything else.

But then my mom called.

When I met my friend for milkshakes a few minutes later, I was a little shaken. Was this God telling me I was supposed to go on a mission trip, or was I so caught up in the idea of an international adventure that I was replacing His still, small voice with my own loud mouth tendencies?

As my friend as I slurped our shakes, we talked it out. Oddly enough, she was struggling with the same decision; she’d decided not to go, but had also been given another opportunity. And so we both decided to pray about it. We decided to pray for each other and for ourselves.

At the same time, I was also aching for more wisdom. Aching to have a spirit quiet enough to hear what God was telling me. So what did I do? I started reading His Word. And I started praying. And I started turning parts of Proverbs and Psalms into prayers that I whispered to the One I was desperately waiting to hear from. Before long, as I thumbed through the topical index at the back of my Bible, I came across this verse:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

But I already knew wisdom came when one feared the Lord and learned about Him. After all, that’s what I was trying to do! Plus, I had two days at the most to make my decision, and I knew delving deeper into my relationship with God wasn’t something I could turn on just when I needed an answer. Should I go? How do I know if it’s You telling me to go?

But then I came to this verse:

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”– James 3:17 (ESV)

That’s it! I told myself. The verse resonated in my mind, and I knew that somehow, God had led me to this verse. Yes, it’s a definition of wisdom, but when I read it, I saw it as a list of criteria off which we should base our actions if we’re seeking to make wise choices. Was I wanting to go on this trip for pure motives? Yes, I wanted to serve God. Was I “open to reason?” I’d like to think I was. If I didn’t go on this trip, how would I be spending my summer? At home, most likely. Here was an opportunity to see beyond my norm and reach out to a new group of people. When I read that verse, I felt a sense of calm. I spent a little more time praying about it before I decided to sign up. Then, once I did, I applied for a new passport, mailed a support letter, and began preparing for the journey.

I had the time of my life in Costa Rica. It’s hard to put the experience into words, but I’d like to try. At the start of the trip, we were each given a journal in which to record events, prayers, thoughts, etc. Parts of my journal will remain in my journal, but there are parts I’d like to share with you. Because I could try to recount the stories and the ways in which I saw God work…or I could share pages from my journal. Pages that were written in the middle of the moments that mean so much to me. Pages that were written as I saw God’s wonders unfold.

Over the next few blog entries, I’d like to share pieces of my Costa Rica journey with you. I’ll share more than just what’s within the pages of my journal, of course, but I’d love to try to give you a glimpse of my life-changing experience. In reading this story, you’ll see moments of  tears and laughter, heartbreak and joy. But most of all, I pray you’ll see the hand of God at work, not only in my life and the lives of those I met, but also in your own life. Because even if you never leave your home town, you’re on a mission field. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you’re a missionary, called to spread the Good News. And if you’re not a Christian? You’ve got a Lover relentlessly pursuing your heart. Don’t be afraid to give it to Him. I promise it’ll be the start of an incredible adventure.

From my travel journal, written while flying thousands of miles above the ocean:

“International = Inter national = Into the nations.
God, may we take your message into the nation of Costa Rica with boldness, with gladness, with courage.”

Come back next time, and I’ll share some memories, some pictures, and some pieces of my heart.

In His love,