Monthly Archives: May 2017

Pura Vida

WAIT! Before you exit out of this blog entry, I promise the Spanish in here is minimal and translated for my non-Spanish/Spanglish readers.  Don’t let the title scare you off.

Fun fact: I spent a semester living and studying in Costa Rica.  Costa Rica is a small country (about the size of Lake Michigan) in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  Costa Rica is known for many things, one of them being its beauty.  Nearly every inch of the country is gorgeous, even the metropolitan areas.  If you are not surrounded by gorgeous jungles and mountains you are surrounded by colorful buildings and extravagant street art.  If the Bible wasn’t predominantly based in the Middle East I would have thought I was walking through the Garden of Eden as I traveled home every day, that’s how gorgeous and lush this country is.  Costa Rica is also well-known for its lack of military forces…and by lack of I mean the country as no military.  That sounds bizarre right?  As an American citizen hailing from a family with so many in the armed forces I thought it was insane. However, after just a week of living there I completely understood why their country has no military.  They don’t need one!  They’re far too peaceful to worry about attacking or being attacked.

You will hear Costa Ricans – or Ticos, as they call themselves – use the expression, pura vida, all the time.  Pura vida (pronounced poor-uh vee-duh) is Spanish for ‘pure life’.  However, in Costa Rica pura vida can mean a number of things including, but not limited to: “hello”, “great”, “nice meeting you”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. Pura Vida is not just a pretty sounding phrase that the people like to use, but it is a philosophy that all Ticos live by.  Pura Vida is all about taking pleasure in the simple things and living a peaceful and stress-free life.  This would explain why Costa Rica is rated as the happiest nation on earth.  Ticos don’t fret with very much in life; pura vida reminds them to be thankful for what they have and to not dwell on the negative.

Again being an American, this way of life was very different.  I actually had culture shock.  The first night I arrived in Costa Rica I forgot my backpack in the back of someone’s car and freaked out because I had no way of contacting them.  My host mother, Emilce, looked at me with the calmest face, made a few phone calls and my backpack was returned to me in 20 mins time. I was completely bewildered and she simply shrugged and said “pura vida. Tienes hambre (Are you hungry)?”   I spent days trying to figure out how this woman was so chill while I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  But the longer I stayed in that country, the more I began to understand and the more I began to understand the more free I felt.  I assumed it was nothing more than me acclimating to the culture, but I realized one night it was more God working on my heart and mind.  I was walking home alone one night after hanging out with some friends, praying to God about some things on my mind. Immediately God brought Luke 12:22-32 to my attention and told me “Do I not look after the ravens that neither reap nor sow?  Mi hijo (my son), you are of much more value.  Don’t worry about a thing; I will take care of you.  Pura vida.” From that moment on, even up to today after being back in the Uptight States of America, I worry a lot less about things.  I catch myself saying pura vida at the most stressful of times, because I now know that I’ll never be left nor forsaken.  Therefore, I willingly lie down in pastures…no one has to make me anymore.  Though I do admit to still having colossal meltdowns every time someone eats my food in the fridge, but I think that’s an acceptable exception.

I say all of this to say, stop stressing.  I understand how taxing it can be going without a paycheck for so long.  I understand how scary it can be stepping into the real world for the first time after finishing school.  However, you’re stressing will get you nowhere.  As the saying goes, “small things for a big God”.  The things you are stressing about are so small in comparison to your creator, who is so big.  Just do your best and let the Creator do the rest.  PURA VIDA.

Photo May 19, 3 12 58 AM

 

The Might of the Pen

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

Until recently I absolutely detested writing.  So what all changed?  To be honest, I’m not quite sure.  However, I can tell you about a specific grammar Nazi that changed it all.  Her name is Dr. Leslie Layne, an English professor at Lynchburg College and fellow tea addict.  I had her for not just one, but two semesters.  I still remember how angry I was when my first grade in her class and one of the first grades I received in my undergraduate career was a F.  I also remember how horrified I was when this woman told the class that we will be writing weekly journals.  It wasn’t long or tedious (though it did take me a while to get over that first F); I just hated writing, especially about myself.

Up until recently I was the most closed off individual you have ever met.  I was too afraid of opening up because I have been hurt so much in the past.  My past is filled with anger, depression, fear and hate.  I was always on my guard ready to fight at any moment.  I tried to escape my reality by reading.  I read nonstop.  There was never a time that my face was not in a book.  However, every time I finished a great book I became angrier.  I always remember sitting in the bed crying, enraged at the fact that I read about these characters achieving all of their desires and slaying their demons, yet I am still sitting here struggling just to get through the day.  Though I had escaped reality for a moment, when I closed that book, it came right back to choke me, seven times stronger.  But then I met Dr. Layne and her syllabus of weekly journals.  For the first time I was expressing my opinions and feelings. And. I. Felt. Vulnerable.  I felt as if I was slowly ripping stitches out of my wounds from time past.  It was awful and awfully painful.  That was until I noticed that the more I wrote, the greater I felt.  I began feeling at peace, I was feeling…empowered?  I began to understand that this pen in my hand or these keys at my fingertips were not hurting me, they were in fact healing me.  Facing my reality as I wrote ripped those stitches out so God could heal them properly.  I was feeling great, but still not whole.  That was until I began to write my story.  I wrote about what God has done, is doing, and has promised to do for me.  I shared what I wrote with a few close friends and they insisted that I share it.  So I did.  And the responses were unbelievable.  I never could have imagined that people would be coming to me, telling me that my writings inspired and encouraged them to do and be better.  Who would have thought all of that could transpire from a weekly journal?

One of my favorite movies and stories is The Freedom Writers.  The Freedom Writers is based in Long Beach, California in the 1990s.  Following the L.A. Riots and the O.J. Simpson trial, racial tension was everywhere, especially at Woodrow Wilson High School.  A woman by the name of Erin Gruwell, the new teacher to Woodrow Wilson, was assigned to teach a group of 150 very unmotivated and “unteachable” first-year students.  The majority of her students were involved in gang activity, the illicit drug trade, and were immigrants to the country.  Her students fought one another constantly and refused to seek common ground between one another.  That was until Mrs. Gruwell showed them that they are quite the same.  She did this through writing.  She had her students write every day in a journal.  They could write whatever they wanted.  Most of them wrote their personal stories.  They discovered within time that writing is a powerful form of self-expression that could help them deal with their past and move forward…together.  Today, many of the students destined for a life of hardship or worse, death, are college graduates, authors, and national motivational speakers and educational mentors.  All because of a daily journal.

Writing is more than scribbling words on paper.  It is about expressing yourself in the truest manner.  To be a writer is to be a mentor, healer, friend, and anonymous confidant.  I could have gone back and truly hurt those who have hurt me with a sword.  But through the pen, I gained restitution, healing, and peace of mind.  Now that my story is out I can rest peacefully at night.  Like The Freedom Writers and like myself, if you wish to genuinely end the agony, write.  Let ink flow in place of blood and allow God to turn such a testing activity into an active testimony.  Tell your story, leave nothing untold within.

I realize I have a story to tell and though it hurt at first to tell it, it hurts worse now to not tell it.  One day I will write a book, but for now I journal and I blog because I cannot bear the agony of having an untold story inside me.