I was inspired to write a post similar to my good friend Lynnea, who is courageously battling breast cancer at the young age of 32, and has an incredible blog about her journey. Her 32nd birthday was just a week ago and she wrote this post: Happy Birthday To Me. If you don’t have time to read it, she writes about several lessons she has learned since being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. I want to borrow (or plagiarize) some of these lessons here because our lives have some parallels right now. But before I begin, I want to say that although there are parallels between her life and mine , I don’t want to understate the trial that she is going through and make it seem that we are in the same boat. We are not. On the other hand, there are similarities, because we both live in cultures that aren’t our own and we’ve both dealt with health care issues while abroad (again, cancer is way more serious than my infertility. Read more of my story here: His Gentle Guidance, Learning to Wait).
The nine months of living here, and even the preparing to move here, hasn’t been an easy ride. There have been many blessings of course and we both know that God has a plan and a purpose for our time in Costa Rica. But oftentimes, we’ve struggled with doubt, fear, frustration, homesickness, anxiety and even on some days depression. All of these struggles, however, can be counted as a blessing too, because the trials we experience in life and how we react to them will define who we are and who we become. And I, for one, am very thankful for all the ways that this experience is strengthening us.
So onto some lessons I’ve learned about surviving and thriving while living in Costa Rica:
· Keep your sense of humor.
o Joe and I laugh a lot together. We have to in order to survive on some days. Like last Wednesday when the exterminator was supposed to come to kill all the ants. We had everything bagged up: food, clothes, cosmetics. We even had a reservation at a hotel (thank you mom). But then the guy comes and it starts to rain, and he says he can’t spray because of the weather. It won’t be effective, he tells us. And gosh darn it, we need that spray to be effective. The next earliest appointment we could get was Monday morning at 8 a.m. which meant four more days of living with ants everywhere. Yes, we were mad. But we also laughed. And that helped. A lot.
· Make plans with friends.
o Sometimes when we’re down, our tendency is to isolate ourselves. At least that is my tendency. But we were made to be in community. And we are so blessed to have some pretty awesome friends here. Inviting people over, ordering pizza, drinking margaritas, and laughing all night is a great way to battle the blues.
· Exercise regularly.
o I feel stronger and healthier when I exercise. And it gives me much needed endorphins that help me cope better with slow, more difficult days. Kate likes to do it too and will go change into her ‘exercise clothes’ and sometimes she gets real serious and takes her shirt off.
· Read God’s word and pray as much as possible. But skip church if needed.
o Church is important, but to me, going to a 3-hour service in another language sometimes does more harm than good. The most important thing for me is to talk with God throughout the day and read my Bible. The Bible has brought me immense peace throughout my life, but especially during this season.
· Don’t ask “Why me?” – it is a tempting but extremely dangerous question…and one that causes an endless spiral and doesn’t have an answer (lesson from Lynnea).
o For me, the ‘why me’ comes with our struggle with infertility. We are now 4 months past surgery and 21 months into trying for kid number two. We never expected this. It was not in the plan. But isn’t this life? And aren’t struggles like this how God teaches us to be more like Him? That’s why this ‘lesson’ is so vitally important because the why me will never get me anywhere.
· Hope is a powerful force. Despair is an equally powerful force. And I have the choice. (Lynnea)
o Again, so well-said and true for us, whether it’s something like adjusting to a new culture or hoping for another baby.
· Yell or throw something if you really need to. No one keeps it together all the time, nor should we have to. (Lynnea).
o See Throwing Plastic Chairs…
· Get out and go places.
o We’ve been incredibly blessed to have lots of family come visit us and we’ve taken the opportunity to get out and enjoy this beautiful country. It keeps us going and gives us joy. And Kate learned how to swim - or survive in the water at least. See video below.
|Sunning our legs at Playa Samara.|
|Aunt Maggie teaching Kate how to blow bubbles.|
· Be silly and have fun.
o Aliss is this department store here that I love, that sells everything from crazy sunglasses to high-end dishware. I like the crazy sunglasses. One day while my mom was here, we went to the mall and went crazy with the hats and glasses. I get frustrated with the lack of options for recreation here, but you just gotta make the best of it. And Aliss in the mall offers some fine recreation… not to mention this mannequin we saw in the Tommy Hilfiger store that is wearing some very ill-fitting jeans. This is how my 85 year-old granddad with Alzheimer’s likes his pants to fit. (It was much better and funnier in person).
|Not sure if this is the image Tommy was going for.|