Monday, December 16, 2013

Santa Ain't No Big Deal!

Love this picture of Jesus with the Santa hat on and ready to party! 🎅

There are so many people who get so legalistic about Santa...the time of year! Please give me a Holiday Break! (Hahaha! See what I did there?)

Look- let me simplify:  Jesus was born one day long ago in a manger in Bethlehem. Christians know this, though we may not necessarily know the exact time of year it actually took place, which is another thing people worry about. My thoughts on that: That God hasn't seen fit to help us nail down the exact date He was born should tell us something.  If someone does know the date please fill us in.  Personally, I think if God was as concerned as some people are about the specific date, He would have revealed the mystery in His Word to us all as one of the foundational tenets of our faith. After all, all mysteries of God are hidden FOR us: Not FROM us!

I learned some things in a recent conversation with some folks in answer to a question about whether or not we should allow Santa in to our Christmas celebration or tell our children about him. Good question, and one I have some good thoughts about, which I would like to share!

I learned in this conversation from someone who has done more research on it than I, that Christmas as we know it only began being celebrated in the 1800's.  It began because Christians wanted to commemorate the birth of Christ.

Somewhere during that time a man named St. Nicklaus began GIVING things to the poor and less fortunate. St. Nicklaus was a real, Christian man.

Somewhere after that,  Clement C. Moore sat by the bedside of his little girl who became very ill with an extremely high fever and prayed for her life to be spared. He fell asleep at her bedside and had a dream. When he awoke he penned the famous T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS story, which somehow probably gets told more often than the story in Luke 2 of Jesus birth.

We know & GOD knows that CHRISTMAS (as we know it) is not in the Bible....but the celebration began by Christians with a heart to remember that Christ was born as a man, and brought the greatest gift ever to mankind.  I personally believe with all my heart that God, as a Father, loves the motive of our hearts to celebrate the birth of a his Son, even if it MAY even be at the wrong time of year, or that a lot of the celebration might sometimes be more focused on us, but then we were His focus when He sent Jesus to us that very first "Christmas"!

If MOST Christians are honest, we SAY it's about Jesus, but most of what we do focuses on the family meal, the buying of gifts, FOOTBALL: A sacred tradition!! (😜), etc., and very little is actually done to dominate the celebration towards the birth of Christ. That is NOT a judgment, but IMHO, an accurate observation. I'll be honest and admit that, though my heart is heavenward about the birth of Christ, and my favorite songs laude His heart to send us a savior, like O HOLY NIGHT, ORDINARY BABY, MARY DID YOU KNOW.....At the same time I'm reveling in the precious family events we will share at this time of year, and the traditions that have become cherished to us as a family!   But restoration of RELATIONSHIP was Gods heart for sending Jesus, and to adopt us into His forever FAMILY!

I know there are probably many out there who are focused FULLY on this season as being ONLY about Christ's birth, and if that is you...God bless you!  But since God has no favorites, and He love us even when we may not do everything PC:  Perfectly Correct--it makes me content to know that because we are gathering in His Name, then He is there in the midst of us.  I truly believe that MOST Christians have it in their hearts that JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON, even though most of the ways we celebrate are pagan rituals: the tree, the lights, the Figgie Pudding, the bells, the gifts. 😘 I'm not sure how some of those came to be used. Perhaps the Evergreen Tree represents everlasting life, and the fact that he died on another kind of tree. Perhaps the lights represent the Light of God coming into our darkness, proving that the darkness could not put it out. And the giving of gifts in direct correlation to Gods gift to mankind.   Just a few personal speculations about some of the symbols that were chosen for this time of year called Christmas.

I agree that the commercialism has gotten out of hand, but that is our own fault....not the fault of the Christmas Spirit and intended purpose for the celebration.   WE could stop all that anytime we want to, and..........

.........get back to family gatherings where we focus on setting a place at the table for Jesus, have communion at the end of the meal, and thank God for sending Him: Period.  On the other hand, most of us have it in our hearts to want to GIVE- especially at this time of year, and I don't think He is ever disappointed with us about that!

Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery, and I think Daddy God is as blessed when we emulate his giving Spirit, as we are when our kids imitate the things we do! (Well, okay: some things!) 😏

I cannot judge what people give to others. Sometimes it may just be something someone wants or needs...and other times it may be huge acts of humanitarianism as we reach out to the sick, the homeless, and the hungry.  Let each man GIVE as he is led by the Holy Spirit to do so. (2 Corinthians 9:711) And don't judge unless you wanna be JUDGED with the same measure - which is what Jesus was talking about in Luke 6:38. BTW.... Judgment  (NOT money or tithing) is the context of those verses in Luke 6)

As far as Santa (especially for those who think it might be sacrilegious to show Jesus with the Santa hat....) - you might be overthinking the "metaphor"!   God sits in the Heavens and laughs. 😝 He has a really good sense of humor.  All of us have had a birthday party and worn a party hat or had a theme of our favorite fictitious imaginary character at one time or another. I love Gods sense of humor that is portrayed in the opening picture, cuz He really does love to have a good time with us! If you haven't had a fantasy-tastic party like that, I'm sorry that your childhood and/or life had so little fun and imagination in it....I mean that sincerely!!!

God encourages  imagination. (Ephesians 3:20, Romans 4:17...) I heard Graham Cooke say once at our local church (Convergence Church of Fort Worth, Texas) that "The Kingdom of Heaven borders on fantasy. It is so spectacular, God knew we would need an imagination to comprehend it!" To that I say Amen!!!! Since Clement C. Moore was a loving, Christian man, I'm sure his dream of Santa Claus, "the man whose belly shook like a bowl full of jelly", flowed from the creative imagination God Himself gave him.

Since Santa and the Easter bunny are as fictitious as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Cinderella, and Snow White.... It's okay if you exercise a little creative license to make a fun, make believe character to fit the value system of your household without losing a harmless icon of the tradition of Christmas.  My parents taught me of a Santa Claus who was as saved as I was, who's friend was Jesus, and who went about giving gifts like Jesus and telling kids that Jesus was indeed the reason for the season.

I also told our girls that Santa wasn't punishing kids for their behavior, cuz God doesn't!  The Lord chastises, but that is redemptive where punishment is never redemptive!  Santa also knows that Jesus took the "punishment" for the sin of all mankind, and that is why Santa comes at Christmas so that all children everywhere know that JESUS is the greatest gift man will ever receive!!!!

Okay....maybe not everyone has told the story that way....but I am not in charge of controlling everyone's life and actions: And neither are you! But we do have the power and the freedom to tell the story with a redemptive purpose to our children and the world!

At Easter time, we redeemed the Easter egg ritual by telling our girls that the Bible says "All of creation speaks of Jesus...", and that the BUNNY, one of God's "Hoppy" little creations, is so excited about the fact that Jesus rose from the tomb all those years ago, that he fills the eggs with goodness, and when you break them open they represent the opening of the tomb, and new life, which is what happens when the eggs hatch with the chicks inside.

I am made in the image of a very creative God, and I choose to exercise His creative DNA that dwells within me!  Can we talk C.S. Lewis, Walt Disney, and others?  Most children have had a Mickey or Minnie Mouse toy, Donald Duck, etc., and we've grown up pretty okay!

Mommies and Daddies, you get to write the ending to these great stories for your kids to enjoy with the Christian values attached to them that might never have been there to begin with. Or were they, and we allowed our vision to be so clouded by religious legalism that we missed the point?: To LOVE, and have fun!!!!

The character of Santa is not evil. He is a jolly fat man who loves and brings good cheer and gifts while he points to the Christ child, if you'll let him.  Interestingly, most of the same people who fuss about Santa don't blink twice when allowing their kids to entertain fictitious characters who are rooted in the demonic, like Harry Potter, but fail to see the serious spiritual ramifications in their lives and the lives of their children. I AM NOT HERE TO JUDGE OR DEBATE THAT: .....I'm just saying: Logs and Specks!

Can we please stop giving our list of the rules we keep to others, expecting them to do the same? It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, (Galatians 5:1) and what may be "right" for you in Christ, may be totally "wrong" for me.

Children are really, really smart, and if parents exercise their brilliance and common sense, they won't make any bigger deal out of Santa than they do the popular toys their kids play with that are also rooted in fantasy, because we all know that all too soon children grow up, and their Mommas tearfully put those cherished bedtime companions away for the next generation because their kids finally realized they were only make believe, imaginary childhold companions.  (1 Corinthians 13:11)

I also really don't care if you say Happy Holidays to me instead of Merry Christmas, because it doesn't change the fact that I am celebrating the birth of Christ.  It is, as I said at the beginning, the reason we have this "holiday" at all. THERE IS NO OTHER REASON FOR THIS SEASON- or to be more exact: The reason this celebratory season was started! But, if you prefer Happy Holidays as your greeting, you should know there are some benfits to getting a Christmas Tree as opposed to a Holiday Tree!  (For the humorless....that was humor!)

If you choose not to speak of Santa in your home at Christmas, or out up a tree, etc., that's your choice in your home.  But please don't diss those of us who do, or walk in judgment towards us because we are okay with these traditions.

My parents helped me to know the Truth:  That Jesus is Lord, and Santa is Santa.  Both hold a definite place at the Christmastime celebrations of today, but their roles and positions should never confused!  So let's join Jesus in celebrating His Birthday, should we?  Up to you.... :)

HO HO HO! 🎅 Merry Christmas, For unto us a Child is Born! Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men....and to ALL a good night! 🎄🎁🎉🎂👼

Sunday, August 18, 2013

HOLDING ON TO LET GO- (OR: Atraverssiamo)

I know that title sounds a bit "oxymoronic", but let me explain.
(You knew I would, right? That's why you're reading this....)

Approximately 16-17 years ago we were living in New Mexico. That's when my husband Mark and I began to research retiring in Costa Rica.  Some gentlemen whom Mark was working with at the time were on the verge of retirement. They kept telling him about:
>>>Trips they'd taken to PARADISE
>>>The great Ex-Pat communities established here
>>>And the financial benefits of living in a "developing" country - NOT THIRD WORLD as most people think of it.
"Third world" is terminology which provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. Here's a link that will help you better understand what "third world" means, and why Costa Rica DOES NOT fall under this category.

Now...where was I ?   Oh yes, ..... During those years we began researching Costa Rica, mostly through an informative newsletter we signed up to receive via email called WE LOVE COSTA RICA by Scott Oliver:  An Ex-Pat  from Australia who does a great job gleaning information about Central America and specifically Costa Rica! He receives and shares testimonials from numerous individuals, groups, etc., so that people can decide for themselves if this is the place for them.  He has lots of Real Estate sources as well for those looking to buy existing properties, or build.  And, he gives you the good testimonials as well as the bad so you aren't just hearing one side of the story.

This newsletter, along with surfing the Internet and staying in touch with a few of the guys and gals he worked with then who actually made the break to retire in Costa Rica several years ago, continued to keep our interest alive.  That, and the fact that The Lord kept building up the desire within us for this Central American country and her people.  I don't know why, other than it is the destiny He had assigned for us.

Between 2007-08 we received a prophetic declaration twice from trusted members of the Prophecy Team at our home church (Convergence Church of Fort Worth) that "you will minister to the Spanish community and language will not be a barrier."   Since prophetic words (should) always confirm something the Lord is already saying to you, or has done previously, we knew this to be truth - and here's why: A short time after Mark and I were ordained in a small church in Lakehills, Texas, we were ministering in a Spanish speaking church called Christ Is My Refuge in the barrios of San Antonio.  The first nite we went to minister in Worship and the Word,  the people began waving at their Pastor, Felix Gonzales, who was translating for us.  After finding out what they were trying to tell him, he turned to Mark and said, "I'm going to sit down because they understand you perfectly - they don't need me to translate!"  ONLY GOD!

All that to say that it has been happening here with the people of Costa Rica  as well, though I was a little slow on the up-take.  When we would go to town and try to communicate without really being able to speak Costa Rican Spanish dialect well at all, Mark & I kept saying, "Oh, I wish we could speak their language better!"  Then one day as I was posting a Facebook comment about all the surreal conversations we were having with this happy, gracious community of people in El Cajon de Grecia, The Lord said to me, "Funny, isn't it, that you're communicating with the Spanish people and language isn't a barrier?"  God is just a kick in the pants!!!!

That is not to say that we aren't tying to learn their language, but meanwhile, it is not hindering us in any way!  That's one of the things we love about the people most.  They desire relationship so much and they will do whatever it takes to have that with everyone they encounter!   In fact, some of you may remember my first blog about my shoulder issue and the little lady who helped me find the right sized sling at one of the FarMAcia's in Grecia Central.  I asked if I could take our picture together that day and we exchanged emails because she wanted me to send her the picture.   She responded to my email and said this:

"Jeanie thanks for the picture, it was a pleasure for me to serve, I hope a speedy recovery.
May God always bless you wherever you go. I know it was no accident it was written in God's purpose to meet you. By the way, if you are here in Grecia, CR. I would like to invite you to my house for coffee, and my two sons to meet you.
God bless and keep you, and that He will guide your steps. You are a very special family.

This is the "norm", btw, for these people to want to get to know you personally.  Some gringos have a jaded opinion about that, but I  know The Lord brought us here to connect relationally with these beautiful people where He seems to have called us to spread His Grace - and it would appear evident we are to receive it from them as well!  

Many people have had the misunderstanding that we are on a missions trip (only) in the typical sense. Well, I guess we are - but not like you think. Mostly, we are here for the aforementioned reasons, and because we desire to live among these people and in this country for which He has given us an extreme love. Every encounter I have with them makes me love them more, and makes me more grateful that God had these things written down in His book of remembrance for us since the foundations of the Earth!

 Many times since our decision to begin residency proceedings, Mark and I have asked each other, "Did you think you'd be here doing this when you were in High School?" LOL!

AND..... Lest you think it is just us who feel this way, let me add that our neighbors, Jen and Greg Seymour -[the young couple who at the age of 40-42 years old, decided that the stress of the corporate life they were living was not worth the early death it seemed to be promising...and sold it all to come to Costa Rica]... feel the same way as we do about this area and the people! They, too, are experiencing the kind of joy we are experiencing as they live life daily and interact with the tico's and tica's here: Native titles for male and female Costa Ricans.

NOTE:  (I will see if Jen and Greg will give us permission to share some of their blogs.  Jen's blogs are interesting enough to have captured the attention of the Costa Rican News, and they recently asked her to write an article in blog form for them, which will in turn draw attention to her blog page.   Her husband, Greg, writes some very interesting articles as well.  Hopefully, they will both allow me to share a few with you in the near future. :)

So, what am I holding on to -to let go of?  Well, it is hard to believe that in just three short years both of our daughters (Caitlin and Shelbye) have gotten married - each of them respectively to two very amazing, godly young men who are God's very best for each of them!

Above: Caitlin with her husband, Kalen Dermott.....Below: Shelbye with her husband, Daniel Gingerich

And, if that's not enough for a mother's heart, our oldest daughter, Caitlin and her husband Kalen, are expecting their first baby - the first grandchild on both sides - October 29th, 2013!

Below: Our beautiful grandson!  

That's a lot of magnanimous changes in family dynamics in just a few short years!  Perspective is huge when it comes to stuff like this.

Mark and I took our first trips to check out Costa Rica LIVE in person in 2009. We came a second time in 2010,  just shortly after Caitlin and Kalen were married.  Our plan for 2013 was to make two, 2-3 month trips to Costa Rica to see if we still think we want to do this long term. REMEMBER THAT PERSPECTIVE I SPOKE OF ABOVE? Well, a lot can happen in 3 short years and it can seem so quick! On the other hand, the thought of being gone for 2-3 months seemed like an eternity to me!  In any case, on May 8th we came here to Richard's once again (which borders the FINCA coffee vineyards) in El Cajon Arriba where we've stayed each time we've visited Costa Rica. It really doesn't get much better than this in the Central Valley- which is the general consensus of many who've stayed where we are staying.

We returned to the USA on June 26th and then returned to Costa Rica again July 24th.  We will be here until October 3rd when we will return to Fort Worth for the birth of Baby Boy Dermott! Words cannot sufficiently express the feelings we are experiencing right now as we anticipate his arrival, but that's a story for "otro día" =another day!"

2011 held some major challenges for us in that Mark was on the threshold  of retirement after 44 years of working as a defense contracts manager -first for the government and then for the private sector: Lockheed Martin, to be specific. We knew we had to sell the big house with the big mortgage in Weatherford in order to live on a reduced retirement income. (There should be prep classes and therapy for everyone as they head into these uncharted waters! Just sayin'! )

 So, we did!  We sold the house within two and a half weeks of listing with a brilliant young real estate broker.  Then we took the money from the big house and paid cash for an older, smaller home that was in renewed and upgraded condition (Our broker told us it was a God-find), leaving us debt free!!!!

You'd think we had it made in the shade, but living in America on a reduced income is nearly impossible, and Mark and I DO NOT SPLURGE!   For the first time in our married lives we wondered how people making any less than our retirement income were able to survive!? (We lost 100K annual pay when  Mark left his career field: Yowch!).

Thankfully, Mark has always been a planner, and since his early days in the Air Force, he PAID his savings account like a bill - NO WAVERING!  (A good plan young people!  Sometimes it meant going without- or not doing something we wanted to do, but we have retirement accounts and a good sized savings to show for it that makes it possible for us to  live our dream and follow The Lord where He is leading us in our Golden Years!)

Below:  My stud, best friend, lover, best DAD in the world, as well as a humble spiritual leader of our family- LOVE HIM!

On April 30, 2012 Mark retired fully, right about the time I was beginning some major healing restoration that we'd prayed for 14 years to become a reality! That's a story for another day, but thank The Lord for His Grace which empowered us both to make it through the end of 2011, as if seeling your home, moving and retirement all at the same time wasn't hard enough!!!

I, Jeanie, literally "hit the wall: emotionally, spiritually, physically during that time, and  I can safely say that only the saving Grace of Jesus got me through those extremely  challenging days beginning October 5th of 2011 through June 19, 2012 when I crested the most difficult days of my restoration journey and headed toward the victory the Lord promised was coming by the end of the year.   Had it not been for the Rhema Word the Lord gave me on January 2nd 2012, I don't know if I could have held on.  That day - January 2nd 2012- I had reached the point, after 14 years of contending for my physical healing both spiritually and naturally and not seeing it manifest, that I was really okay with just going to sleep and not waking up!  I'll never forget sitting at my desk that day, 01/02/2012 (interesting number combo!) asking God, "What are we doing here Lord?"   He said loud and clear in my spirit, "2012 will be a year of restoration, and a year to see dreams fulfilled that have long laid dormant!"  

PAUSE FOR A REVELATION MOMENT!!! ----Wow!!! As I typed that last paragraph, I realized that this - COSTA RICA - is one of the dreams being fulfilled that has long laid dormant!  (Pause for a crying session with the Lover of my life, soul and spirit!)

All these things are exciting, but a bit scary at the same time!   I, Jeanie, had a career also at one time, but I chose to stay home and be a "Mom". I home schooled our girls and loved every minute that I invested in their lives. Problem is, I invested deeply, and though I am running toward this new adventure Mark and I are on with great Joy, there is also much pain in letting go of the family that hovered around the home fires all those  years!  I have gradually become accustomed to our daughter's statuses as "Sadie' Sadie, married ladies"  ( a term only Fannie Brice fans can appreciate!) ..... - but three years, as I mentioned before, is really not a lot of time to process all those cataclysmic changes completely. And MY heart seems to require a lot more time than most folks: Something  which I  get a lot of flack for.  I just need people to not judge, if possible,  the value I put on my deep investment in family, and not expect that I am able to process them all at the same rate most folks are able to do. :)

When I decide to invest, I'M ALL IN!  So suffice it to say that I'm ALL IN as I invest in this new adventure with my husband and best friend - while at the same time, still untangling 23 years worth of "heartstrings" from my years spent training up our girls!!! Add to that the addition of our first grandchild who will be in the United States, while we are here. (This will necessitate frequent trips home to see him! :) Needless to say, my heart is processing a lot of changes, but I'm glad that they are all GOOD CHANGES! And I'm doing it all "poco a poco" as they say here in Costa Rica:  means "little by little".

What a blessing, then, to have the validation of Caitlin and Kalen- Shelbye and Daniel, as we pursue the passion God has put in our hearts for as long as He has for us to do so. You'd be surprised the people whose children have resented them pursuing their dreams, and actually expected them to "be there for them on demand!"

Please,  don't misunderstand: We will be there for our children and grandchildren as much as we are needed, no matter the distance. We will be there for them should they need us without question or hesitation!    BUT - WE HAVE HAD TO HOLD ON TO THE LORD IN ORDER TO LET GO of the fact that our kids don't need us all the time anymore!  They are where we were when we began our family, and its time to step completely out of the way so that they may establish their households and train up their children the way they see fit!  There is freedom in that for them as we'll as for us!  FREEDOM, btw, is one of the concepts of His Grace that we love and teach!

During our stay in Fort Worth, Texas, we will begin to divest ourselves of "stuff" and then put our home up for sale.  As I try to end this story, I am preparing to go to bed so I can arise early to head to the American Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica with Mark to begin the "penciando residency" paperwork.

How long do we plan to be here? Well, we're not sure, but we keep hearing 5. We aren't sure what that is referring to specifically.  Although 5  is the number of Grace - which is the Kingdom message and  mandate The Lord has given us to spread wherever we go - it doesn't necessarily have to mean "years". Since we haven't heard specifically from Him what 5 means right now, we are leaving that up to Him to reveal to us as we go along!

In the midst of all these changes, Mark and I have definitely reached a place that is best described by Elizabeth Gilbert's favorite word from the story of her search for God in her famed novel and movie EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Her favorite "word" was  "Atraverssiamo", and I seem to have adopted it in our current circumstances as one of my favorite words.   It's an Italian word which means-"Let's cross over!", and it would appear that this is exactly what we're doing, once again, in our 29 years together---So, C'mon Baby - let's cross over!

Hasta luego y'all

Gracia  y paz


Monday, August 5, 2013

Servicio con smile: por supuesto¡ (Service with a smile: Of Course!

Hola, hombres y mujeres.

Well, Mark and I have been back in Costa Rica now since the 24th of July, and we are still loving it here! Other than the little "bump in the road" concerning inflamed tendons in my left shoulder - Es la buena vida!   ( It's the good life!).  We can see why Pura Vida is the prophetic declaration they make over one another all day long, because life in Costa Rica truly is PURE LIFE! 💙  This got longer than I planned, but it's a fun recount of our day in get your favorite beverage, sit back and imagine yourself here in Costa Rica with us as I tell you about our fun day doing some very simple things.  

Today, for example, we made a trip to town on the bus-again! It seems there are little things that need constant replenishing, and its not like a quick trip in the car to go up the block to the nearest Walmart. It requires a small hike up Calle Matopalo to the main Cajon Road - about 1/3 mile- catching a bus on the hour, and hopefully get your necessary errands done to catch a return bus back home, praying that you make it  back down Matopalo before the afternoon rain shower!  The Lord has seen fit to help us do just that the last two days in a row! 

That may sound like a lot of work to you, and some days, I must admit, it feels a bit like that to me as well! But it really gives the day purpose while you're getting some much needed exercise in the cleanest air we've ever breathed, and having one-on-one time with the love of my life!  PURA VIDA!  What could be better than that?

We were discussing the other day that we needed to make these grocery runs more often so our bags aren't so heavy on the trek back home.  We plan to get one of those sturdy wheeled grocery carrier carts when we become permanent over here. But for now, we are trying more frequent trips, picking up a few things each time we go. 

That said, we decided to make today's trip to town a lunch date at the Grecia Social Club (GSC) first, and then do our errands. I got in a short swim before we left to catch the eleven o'clock bus into town. When we arrived at GSC around eleven thirty, however, they were not open - AGAIN. Our neighbor/friends here in Cajon, Jen and Greg Seymour, introduced us to this place, and we've been longing for a repeat visit ever since!  We attempted to do lunch there the day that I had the ultrasound of my shoulder last week (on a Tuesday), but they were closed at that time as well!  What the heck???  They have no hours posted on the establishment, so we managed to ask a gentleman passing by on the street, and he was able to communicate to us that they would open at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. A little too late for us to have lunch there as planned, but as they say here in Costa Rica, a lot: Otro dia (Another Day).   

Note to self:  Research the hours of the GSC so we don't keep hitting it on the days they are not open !!!  It's the little things like this in day to day Costa Rica living that cause you to say quite often " PURA VIDA".   Costa  Ricans don't allow the little things like this to upset their day. They are always smiling and happy and in a good mood: Truly!  There are Soda's (Cafe's) all over the place, ranging from small and quaint, to an occasional large and fancy facility, so what's the big deal?  There isn't one - so this is something good that is being established in me during our time here in Costa Rica!  

All these things are working to solidify in me some good advice I received once a long time ago: Don't set your EXPECTATIONS too high, on people or circumstances.  Life is full of curve balls, and when things don't turn out exactly as you EXPECTED they would, you're left feeling disappointed, depressed and discouraged.  I'm still in process of learning how to practice the art of EXPECTANCY, and today was yet another opportunity to do so. EXPECTANCY creates a freedom for everyone to look forward to having a good time together, no matter what that may look like in the end.  TRANSPARENCY MOMENT: Sometimes, I'm a bit like Alice in Wonderland concerning this concept yet: Giving very good advice, but very seldom following it.:( This is when I'm reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." 


To continue our journey for today, we stopped in at Don Pedro's Liquor Store to purchase some wine and and decided to ask the young man working there, who spoke "poquito onGless" (little English), if he could suggest a Soda or Restaurante we might like to try.  He pointed us down the street only about a half block, where we ended up at "la Cosana Griega Bar Restaurante"....right there in a place we have walked by numerous times and have never noticed it.  Could it possibly be that's because we didn't EXPECT there to be an eating place there? But there it was, and they did not disappoint. 

I love that you can see my reflection below the metal canopy in the mirrored windows!  At first I thought "who's taking pictures out that window?"  lol

As you can see, it's very clean and "zen" and modern looking inside, but there were no other people waiting to eat, which made us wonder "are they any good?"  We noticed a mural on the wall with a Scripture of the 23rd Psalm in Spanish, and we were hoping our Shepherd had truly led us to a banqueting table where our hungry tummies could find satisfaction! :) 

It is customary everywhere here in Grecia for the servers in the Sodas or Restaurants to meet and greet you like royalty. They're attitude is sincerely warm and welcoming as they honor you in the manner that is typical of their culture. The waiter was so paitient with us, allowing us to check the place out thoroughly since we'd never been there before, until we found the perfect table to eat at - the one you see Mark seated at below. (Isn't he the cutest 64 year old you've ever seen?)

After passing the entrance (above pic of foyer), there is a pool table.  No one was using it today, but from the sounds of the lively events that take place on the weekends, I'm sure it gets some good use. Our server told us they had just relocated recently from a facility they had been in for a very long time, so people are still trying to relearn how to find them.

From there, you go up a couple of landings to the restaurant on the top floor.  They've fixed it up very cute, I think, and the Barry White music made for a very romantic, private lunch with my Honey things turned out better than I EXPECTED!


 The picture below is another dining area, and one of our servers came around the corner as I was snapping this picture.  :)

Between the two orange walls is an open barbecue grille, and we were told that it is open Friday through Sundays from noon until 8 p.m.  After hearing about the barbecued racks of ribs they do with homemade tortillas, among other things, we are keeping this on our list of places to go on a weekend in the future, and I'm pretty sure Jen and Greg might wanna join us!

I took the following pictures over our balcony and near our table.  

Here's a peek into the bar.....And yes: There was Imperial (Cerveza-Beer) with lunch!

Some very modern banos (bathrooms) are availabe at the end of the hallway, conveniently located between the bar and the dining areas.

Since they are a Bar/Restaurante/Steakhouse...there was a variety of some higher priced dining options, but they also had a daily menu of some of the basics, like Arroyo con pollo (Rice with chicken...a very flavorful dish that our friend Jen defaults to if she is in a quandry. She said it is always good, and prepared a little differently, though excellent, in each place she has ordered it.)  Casado - plato tipico (the typical plate - which means 'marriage' it is a marriage of foods on one plate :), was on the menu, of course. This selection always has a variety of some staples, and as with the Arroyo con pollo, we've never had it prepared the same way twice.  We decided to try this since the price was SO REASONABLE: 2200 colones (just slightly over $4 US dollars).

The salad was shreded white and red cabbage, thin slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and cilantro, chopped chimichury on top and I believe an avocado dressing drizzled on top.  Basmati rice and black beans, of course, a roasted chicken leg (usually it is a grilled chicken breast - Pechuga) but this tasted wonderful as it fell off the bone!  A small pile of pasta with a very light was more el fresca (sp?)...not heavy like an Italian marinara.  There are a couple of huge homemade chips on the plate for scooping, and of course, fried plantains that are yummy goodness!

We didn't realize that we got dessert included in that price, though we should have. It seems that when we order the Cosado Tipico, dessert has always been a part of the package.  It is usually something simple, like Flan, but today's delicacy, which you see above was gently sauteed Plantains in what Mark and I think tasted like a Molasses/Honey concoction, cooked to a soft caramelization.  Just enough to clean the palate and make you feel totally satisfied! 

So now that I have you drooling, I will try to end this novel.  You can see why I titled this as I did considering the wonderful service we received at lunch.  But I would briefly like to add two other small, but meaningful things that happened to us as we interacted with the Tico's and Tica's of Grecia today and receiving their good service in return.  

In my previous blog I posted a picture of the cute little lady at the Farmacia who went the extra mile to get me the righ sized sling.  She gave me her Email that day so I could send her the picture I took of her and I together.  I tried emailing her the picrture, but it would not go through. We made a point to stop there today to get the correction to her email so I could follow through with this promise.  She was in the back, so the easiest thing to do was to pull up the picture on my phone to show the other Tica who was working to whom I wished to speak.  She called to "Fenny" that she had someone to see her up front.  When this cute little lady came around the corner, she knew me right away!  It never ceases to amaze me that once you meet someone here, they are your friend for life!  Words fail to describe exactly how special it makes you feel to have them remember you like this. She then leaned over the counter and gave me the biggest hug...asked about my shoulder...and told me she hadn't received the picture.  (She's speaking Spanish, btw, and we are speaking English, but somehow we are communicating. ) LOL

It is just hitting me as I'm writing this that perhaps this is part of the prophetic word that was spoken over us twice at Convergence Church in 2008 -"you will minister to the Spanish community and language will not be a barrier!"  Since this had happened to us once already while ministering in the barios of San Antonio years ago after Mark was newly ordained we knew this was possible again. (At that time the people at Christ is My Refuge Outreach told the pastor to stop trying to translate as Mark gave his sermon cuz they were understanding every word he was saying!) 
God seems to be doing it in a new and different way here in Costa Rica. Go figure God doing something new! :)   There've been many times since our first trip in May through the end of June, and our current stay that we've found ourselves talking away with a local, and I suddenly get tickled as I realize that we are "communicating" in two different languages. -- Only God! 

Having exchanged emails properly, and after another very strong hug and the traditional kiss on the cheek from Fenny, we went on to Peri Mercado (our favorite grocery store) to get a few miscellaneous items we needed before we caught the 2 p.m. bus back to Cajon.  
We couldn't seem to locate the Oatmeal (Avena Integral) where it usally is, so we asked this cute little clerk if she could help us.  Again, we werer communicating pretty well while duelling it out between English and Spanish.  We are trying to learn their language, btw, but they are so gracious with us as we do so.  We also get a charge out of the fact that they tell us they don't speak English very well as they are conjugating verbs and not allowing their participles to dangle!
Anyway, she sent us to Pasillo tresero - (aisle 3) where we found ourselves among the laundry detergents and hair products, etc.  Another gringo came along to try and help us find it, and when she saw us still looking for it, she came over to figure out why we hadn't found it where she directed us. (Note:  In the USA you are lucky to find a clerk, and the standard answer you get is "I don't know....")   Come to find out, she thought Mark had said "Horina" - which is pronounced H-O-R-V-I-N-A -which is an oatmeal flour for baking.  She was so adorable as she said, "come, come...." and she pointed to the bag of flour, and again, speaking two languages, we were communicating about our misunderstanding. I took my thumb and pushed up on the edge of my upper teeth - just a humorous way of indicating our difficulty to say AVENA correctly and thus, confusing her as to what we were really looking for.  She laughed so hard when I did that, and she grabbed me in a bear hug and kissed me on the cheeks.  Oh my goodness I love these people!  No wonder they call this place GRECIA, which means "city of Grace".  I know the Lord has called us to impart His GRACE wherever we go, but it would seem that the people of Grecia have beat us to it, and they are pouring it into us in large measure!  

Grace and Peace to you all from Costa Rica,
Jeanie (and Mark....)