Josiah and Toby’s First Vlog

Josiah and Toby have asked me to post their very first blog. While Siah would like to take you on tour through our camper, Tobias has shared some of his top secret insight into picking the perfect March Madness bracket. I have a hunch you’ll enjoy this minute and 58 seconds…

Also, here are a few pics from our time in Colorado. img_3313Since we spent most of Jan & Feb in 90 degree weather I guess it’s only fair that we woke up this morning to Birdie coated in 4 inches of snow. img_3337But it has been a bit of a rude awakening to fall asleep these past few weeks knowing that a thin layer of aluminum is our only separation from temps that have dipped down into the lower teens. While we have absolutely loved our time here in the Rockies we are very excited for the journey to continue out to the West coast next month. We’ll try our best to keep you updated as we adventure on.

From Josiah, Toby and the rest of our family, we wish you a happy spring.img_3318

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CREAR (to create)

So apparently it’s March already. We’re back in the US and currently visiting the Pick family in Colorado.

We wanted to provide you all with some background on one of the incredible organizations we had the privilege of serving alongside last month in Costa Rica.

As I mentioned in our last post, we absolutely loved our time in CR. The main reason for that admiration was a simple fact that the people there are so ridiculously friendly. We witnessed this kind heartedness firsthand as we volunteered each morning over the first 2 weeks during our time in Sámara with a local non-profit called CREAR.

For the past 11 years, CREAR has cared for several hundred local children in Costa Rica. The typical public school day in Sámara runs for just 2-3 hours each img_2955img_2974morning. And even more alarming is that it’s fairly standard for up to a hundred days, or more, of school to be canceled each year for a variety of reasons. As you can imagine the school system that exists in Guanacaste has very limited resources, specifically in the area of creative arts. And that’s what brought CREAR  to life.

CREAR was founded and is led by a few women with whom we had the opportunity to work alongside during their winter break. Andrea Keith, the Executive Director, has poured her heart and soul into loving the children of Costa Rica. Lucy Barreto was born img_3275in Spain but has grown up in Sámara and has a passion for impacting social change. And Kimberly Eraca, who moved from New York five years ago, has invested her life to teaching the kids of Sámara (she also babysat for our boys last month so we’re personally grateful for her care). These three women work with a fantastic team comprised of both Ticos and foreign nationals along with more than 130 volunteers from over a dozen countries around the globe.

Our family had the opportunity to work at two different week long camps that CREAR puts on each year. There was nothing quite like witnessing the joy on children’s faces as we helped them build paper mache masks, taught them how to surf and played soccer with kids ranging in age from 3-12 . Our two weeks culminated with the CR version of “field day” in which kids from the entire community came together for an amazing annual picnic.

Bex and I had such a blast helping out and our boys absolutely loved joining in the camps, with little Toby being the designated mascot for the week. One of my favorite moments was when our 3 boys and I were invited in to play Pato, Pato, Gonso (duck, duck, goose;). Toby and I sat together in sheer exuberance and anticipation of our moment to be tapped on the head and hear the word “Gonso!” called out. As Toby’s felt the hand reach down onto his noggin, his 22 month old body seemed to lag behind his little legs as he waddle/ran around the circle in pursuit of his tapper. Although fueled by the roaring excitement from the kids sitting in the circle, Toby was unable to close the gap, this time. But I have the upmost confidence that someday soon, he will experience his moment of zen, and catch that pesky pato.

Keep up the great work Team CREAR. You are creating a difference, one child at a time. img_2948

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Confidential: Paradise Discovered

So here we are in Sámara, Costa Rica.

For those of you who have never experienced the rich coast you should immediately click on this link and book your <$290 round trip, direct flight to soak up Pura Vida. For those of you who have been here previously…

…how dare you not let us in on this little secret.

Over the past 2 1/2 weeks we have learned to surf, explored the Nicoya Peninsula, vegan’d up, hiked a waterfall, trained with the local semi-pro beach soccer team, made new friends, and volunteered every morning at a fantastic org called CREAR. More to come on this non-profit in our next blog but we’ve been so impressed how these folks are running camps and after school programs to care for the local kids here in Sámara.

By far the most amazing thing about Costa Rica is not just it’s physical beauty, but more so how los Ticos (Costa Ricans) are so ridiculously friendly. These amazing people are open to Americans, Canadians and Europeans not just visiting their country but welcoming full timers and connecting with them in a way that is truly genuine. The phrase often said here is Pura Vida, meaning pure life. That’s not just a marketing phrase, it’s what everyone says. And what the people live by. Relaxed, in the moment, and with authentic joy.

Not because life is perfect but because that is the mind set they choose to live out each day. It’s hard to imagine feeling more authentically connected to a people group anywhere in the world more than here in CR.

There are however, certainly no lack of challenges here, but many have called this the Switzerland of the west. One of those reasons is that they spend so little on their military and reinvest much of that money into their national parks (27% of the land is designated as such). Also the middle class seems to be thriving much more here than any other Central American country we’ve been to thus far.

On a personal note on the challenges front, so far we’ve experienced a sprained ankle (Bex), stepped on stingray (yours truly), and one of our children has struggled a bit to adjust to our past few weeks out of the States (will remain anonymous, to protect the innocent;). But when everything else is so good it makes the bumps feel so much less, bumpy. As does the consistent reminder of Pura Vida from our friends here in their daily words, attitudes and actions.

…And 90 degrees and sunny with a cool breeze everyday in January doesn’t hurt so bad either.

And with that, I will leave you with a few photos…

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Spouse’s Greatest Joy & Biggest Fear

img_2755-4Happy 2018!

So we finished out the year in good ol’ Texas with some of our favorite people in the world. And while our family was certainly sad to see ’17 come to an end, we’re moving forward into stage 2 of the camper journey with eyes (and ears) wide open.

But before I get to those details, I wanted to share with you two questions that were posed last year that really got me thinking. I’ve had the opportunity to engage in some great convos over these past 5 months with several amazing couples but a few of the responses have surprised me a bit.

So the questions that have been floating around are “What is your spouse’s greatest joy?”, followed by “and what is his/her biggest fear?”. I’ve heard some intriguing answers ranging on the joy side from:img_2911-5

  • the kids/family
  • sex
  • travel/planning
  • knowing Jesus
  • GA/Alabama football

and the fear side:img_20180109_135705-6

  • not being able to provide financially
  • not being a good enough parent
  • not being able to have kids
  • not working hard enough to accomplish goals
  • health (for self or loved one)

While these answers were fairly wide ranging it seems pretty clear to me that all of us marrieds could be asking our better-halves a few more questions in 2018. And hone in on our listening skills (2 ears > 1 mouth ratio;).

Now for the record, I tried to maintain my status as unbiased administer of these two questions and asked both husbands and wives to try not to ‘lead the witness’. But as you can imagine some of the looks I received back (specifically from the wives) tells me that Los Esposos need to ‘man up’ and start going a smidgen deeper with, as my Dad always says, our best friend for life.

With that, here are a few pics from what both Bex and I described as our current greatest joy (this crazy adventure known only as: camper journey). img_2913-1I will however, fall on my sword here as I incorrectly assumed that yoga was the thing that puts the widest smile on her face. And on the fear side it didn’t take long for Bex to accurately describe the thing that worries me the most as not being obedient to God.

Here’s to a fresh opportunity to help our spouse magnify his/her joy in the new year while we walk alongside them as they face (and someday soon, over come) their most daunting fear.

Now to clarify regarding stage 2 of the camper journey. We’ve recently left Birdie in storage and have flown down to Central America. We spent the past 6 days in one of my favorite cities in the world Antigua, Guatemala and are now heading to Samara, Costa Rica. We’ll finish out our time abroad in February with our most loved missionary family, The Millers, in the Dominican Republic.

Let’s make this year the year. Soak up joy. Smack fear. img_2930-1

 

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You Are Special

Sorry it’s been a few weeks since our last post but I hope everyone is Holiday’d up at this point.

So I was reading one of my favorite books to the boys last night and had such an overwhelming feeling of peace. For those who haven’t read You Are Special, your time has come. I’m convinced that the secret of life can be found in this beautiful story.

Max Lucado does a marvelous job, in this 8 page children’s tale, depicting how each of us is so deeply loved. He reminds us what this life is really all about, and more importantly, what we should be doing each day to soak it up.

If you have kids, nieces/nephews or grandchildren please do them a favor and add one final gift to their stocking this year. The thought of many of you all, some of our nearest and dearest friends, reading these words of truth over your little ones brings a smile to my face.

For those of you who will be celebrating Jesus’s birthday in t-minus 4 days, Feliz Navidad. And to everyone else out there, He wanted me to remind you of something.

God loves you very much.

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Camping at Dry Tortugas National Park

So we finally made good on our promise to take the boys to the beach. And then some.

Dry Tortugas National Park is hands down the most incredible place we have ever visited. It is so remote. It is relatively affordable for being 70 miles west of the Keys in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And it is protected which means it is beautiful and pristine.

We snorkeled. We explored Fort Jefferson. We learned to fish and while Daniel and I each hooked a 300 pound Goliath Grouper, he seemed to laugh underwater at us when he easily snapped the line.

We camped overnight. It was pitch black and silent.

Waves. Wind. Stars. Repeat.

Sadly, Irma did not spare this beautiful spot. Entire sections of the moat wall have collapsed into the ocean. Countless large conch shells have washed ashore which is a sign that the undersea life is not as healthy as it should be. The rangers on the island have been working to clean up the island and have done an amazing job in a short time. But there is still so much debris remaining all the way down the Keys and at the Dry Tortugas.

Public service announcement: if you aren’t recycling. Please do. If you haven’t made efforts to reduce your waste. Please do. If you litter or don’t really ensure that you trash is properly disposed. Please do.

I am so sad about the amount of recyclables and trash we have found and cleaned up in this area. This stuff washes up on beaches here and comes from everywhere. So please think about it. Actual real life people and animals are being heavily impacted by our overconsumption and lack of proper disposal.

Ok. Love you guys! No judgement. Just love.

And funny enough the two places that we have loved the most so far on our journey have lacked the same thing. While Dry Tortugas is as far down as you can go on the east coast and Jacques Cartier Park is on the other end of the map, an hour north of Quebec City, Canada, both of these beauties provide zero cell phone reception/internet.

Pictures cannot do Dry Tortugas justice. I encourage you to find a way to make this trip happen in your future.

With that said, below is our attempt to give you a taste of our experience. Love to you all from the southern tip of the US.

Next stop: Orlando 😊❣️

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A Day at the Beach

Bathing suits packed. Picnic lunch prepared. The boys ready for a great day of sand and sun at Virginia Beach.

virginia-beach-weather

And that’s as far as we got with our plans for the day. As Bex stepped out of the car she heard a man say, “Maryland? You guys are from Maryland? That’s where I’m trying to get back to.”

A tall, slender man with golden aged hair approached, pointing at our license plate. She responded in a calm voice, “Where in Maryland are you trying to get back to?” The man told us that his name was Troy and that he was from Maryland “…well actually Northern Virginia,” he clarified.

Troy described that he had come down to VA Beach with a friend to work an event, but when he arrived the job fell through. He had lost track of his friend and had been sleeping on the beach at night while trying to find work during the day to earn enough cash to catch a bus back home.

From where we were standing, we could see a church building a few blocks away. Bex asked if he had gone there to ask for help, but Troy responded that they told him there was nothing they could do.

Bex replied, “Let’s go ask again. Together.” So off my wife and Troy walked, with the boys and I trailing in the car, 50 feet behind.

help-the-homelessBex talked to a kind woman inside, but was visibly frustrated when she came back out. We started making a few calls to local shelters and after a few minutes Bex informed Troy that she had found a place on the other side of town with a bed available.

And that’s where the normal story would probably end. But then my mouth opened, “We’ll take you over there.”

As we drove Troy from the beach towards the shelter, he began to open up about his life. About decisions he had made. Some good and others not so good. Relationships that had fallen apart. A roller coaster over five decades that had brought him to this point. To the front passenger seat of our car.

We arrived at the shelter and after another hour trying to help Troy get checked in, Bex turned to me with a look on her face that I’ve seen many times before. There was only one thing to do and within a few minutes she had arranged a Lyft home for Troy. Now funny enough, the driver who accepted the job also happened to be staying at the shelter so everything seemed to work out in the end.

Over these past few months we’ve had the opportunity to ‘lyft’ a few other strangers whom we’ve met on the street. Continued prayers for Avela, Crystal, Zarreff and Troy.

As colder weather descends on many parts of the U.S., do you know the local number to call if you see someone who needs shelter?  How can we better care for those whose support system isn’t as strong as our own?  We would love to hear your ideas and experiences.

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