Part of the gift of growing up with humble roots was that my family was the center of my world. We each shared the responsibility for making life work. I was raised in a small upstate New York town and around kindergarten age moved into a farmhouse built in 1850 that had hardly ever been updated. It had 13 mysterious old rooms for a kid to explore with imagination. With just a big old pot belly stove and a coal furnace, we often had frozen water pipes in winter, a garden in the springtime, canned our foods in the summer and made syrup from the trees by fall. As I look back on it now, it was a beautiful season of my life!
As part of my Costa Rica adventure, I spent a couple days at an indigenous reserve called Yorkin. Though much more primitive than my humble beginnings, it was a reminder of the importance of each person in a family and of what it means to feel blessed for every simple thing you have.
Getting to Yorkin meant stepping into a hollowed out tree trunk, chasing away a spider with a five-inch leg span and holding on tight. The “boat” was guided by two capable natives who watched for obstructions and river rapids and made sure the passengers were safe. It didn’t take long for the breathtaking landscape to sweep me away into its storybook wonder. In fact, I was so focused on being in the midst of what felt like the Garden of Eden that I totally missed the moment when our guides struggled to get us over an obstacle. For once, I was so immersed in God’s grace, I didn’t notice we were in some kind of trouble. While others stewed in momentary concern, I blissfully basked in the present joy. I know there’s a lesson in there somewhere that I need to remember.
Getting to our appointed place on the river bank, we donned our backpacks and were led into the jungle through the mud and the biggest ferns and foliage I’ve ever seen in my life. We soon discovered our “hotel” which consisted of a round wooden structure with two floors and some tents where we would sleep. It was totally open air and was a great place to catch all the sounds of the night.
The most colorful roosters I’ve ever seen in my life strutted cheerfully around the grounds amidst the fruit trees, the flowers and the tender dwelling where the host family lived. Our host, an honorable grandfather, was the only one who would sit with us at meals. His wife and daughter prepared the food and his sons taught us about the trees on the grounds and how to make the grass roof. His beautiful grandchildren laughed and played and looked at us with curiosity. There were no toys from Walmart, no stove, no TV, no refrigerator, no beds, just hammocks. Food was prepared in a make-shift oven with the help of a camp stove. The family embraced us, happy to have company and happy to share stories. Our host prayed with us at dinner and blessed us. He was clearly proud of all he had and of his beautiful family. The bamboo floors may have been wobbly and the facilities humble, but the experience was fit for a king.
Sometime soon I’ll tell you how we made our own dreamy chocolate sauce and how we put our mats out under a cascade of stars so clear you could pull the lights out of the sky. It was a magical opportunity. Here we had everything that was important and we weren’t distracted by what wasn’t.
I invite you to find a place, a space, a moment today to just slip away from the noise and hustle-bustle of life and give God a chance to connect you to the stars and to your roots. Let only the things He has made for you distract you. Let the world carry on without you. It will renew your spirit and create a longing in your soul to connect more often. That’s what this adventure did for me. There’s more to tell, so I’ll take you back to Yorkin again soon.