I rolled out of bed and BAM the wall was right there - a slab of burnt orange to greet me reminding me I wasn’t at home. Carefully creeping from the bottom bunk, my tired limbs slowly began searching my suitcase for something to wear to practice. Six days of volleyball, tours, and prayers were ahead of me, and I was already struggling just to find a place to change my clothes. Four feet between my rock-hard bunk bed and the burnt orange wall. Everything felt crowded and disorganized. Man, was I not ready to take on the new adventures and challenges of being in the foreign country of Costa Rica.
As I took my seat, I inhaled, and took in a warm, sugary wave, followed by a blend of fresh pineapple, and richly brewed coffee. I gazed out the windows, waiting to create my plate, and the sight of water droplets slipping down the blades of grass from the windows, the sounds of the joyful birds chirping, combined with the scents of the kitchen, letting me know that it was going to be a beautiful day, to take in God’s beauty.
After all the girls and I said grace, asking our Lord and Savior to bless our day with his guidance, love, and for the blessing to let us share his love with who may ever cross our path throughout the week. We then piled our plates with the warm, sugary, delicious pastries and pineapple. I took a bite into this oh-so-good pastry that was smothered with delicious gooey caramel. I knew I was missing something from this filling meal and that was my coffee. I thought the coffee in U.S. was so scrumptious that I go and get coffee every friday morning, but this coffee was nothing like U.S. coffee. This had the ideal aroma, a light coffee taste, sweet, and gave me the right bolt of energy. The coffee also might have tasted so satisfying just because I had been on three different planes for about eight hours all together the past day and a half; it didn’t help that I also experienced three different time zone changes.
While taking in all the unique changes, I was still so amazed at how I was blessed to even be on this trip. I wondered, how did a girl from a small town get this opportunity? It’s quite spectacular thinking that a college on the beach with a top ten ranked volleyball team from Palm Beach, Florida found my email, and asked me to come on this trip. They emailed me through NCSA which is a recruiting website for athletes, they sent me emails pervious to asking me on this trip asking me to fill out their questionnaire. It involved answering questions about my faith and what certain bible verses meant to me. After I got the email about this trip, I thought it would be nearly impossible for me to pursue this offer, but I knew I wanted to try then I couldn’t have regrets. I sent letters out to my family, friends, and church congregation describing this opportunity I was blessed with. Little did I know that I would be granted with donations from all of them that allowed me to take on this adventure.
Since I was in Costa Rica to play volleyball and serve God, we had to do the whole volleyball thing first. After breakfast, we went and had our daily volleyball practice in the gym that our hotel owned. It always took us a little longer than expected to get to practice. It take so much time to get wherever you are heading in Costa Rica because of their traffic. One of the main reasons it is so chaotic is because the drivers don’t follow the simple rules of stopping at stop signs and following speed limits. Also their infrastructure was definitely not top notch, there would be hundreds of potholes on every road we were on, every thirty seconds we would be bouncing up and down. Talk about not a smooth ride!
On top of that their gyms were so different than what I was used to. The floor was covered in dust, dirt, and lines you can barely see because the paint was chipping. Of course, I was stressing out about getting my new clean white volleyball shoes dirty because they were going to be my shoes for the whole upcoming 2017 high school season and I wanted them to still look clean and fresh. In the U.S. I would never had to worry about getting dirt on my shoes, at this time it was just another example of how blessed I was to be living in the United States. We practiced for about two hours, trying to figure out rotations, working on the connection between setters and hitter, and of course serve receive.
After finishing up with practice, we arrived back at our hotel and prepared for our game. The drive was supposed to be about a thirty minute ride to the gym we were playing at. We all piled into our van, squished together, beyond excited to finally get to play together. Little did we know that we were going to be on that bus for two hours. All of a sudden the noise level in the van raised because we all just started having our own conversations, then somehow we got on the topic of questions we had about God, our faith, and what we believed. I was in a deep conversation with my friend Caroline and Tori, who are two completely different people. Tori is more outgoing, loud, and very talkative, while Caroline was more reserved and soft-spoken. I talked about my journey with God with them also. How I have always been raised in a Christian home since I was born, but my very first memory being a Christian was when I was in second grade, and I asked God to be born again. Ever since that moment it has been an up and down battle because God throws challenges in our lives and at those times, but that's when I have to lean on him with everything I have. Since second grade I’ve had to go through losing some special people in my life like my grandpa, losing and gaining friends, heartbreak, and watching my parents struggle in their marriage. I remember praying to God during each and everytime one of the problems showed up; I would ask for guidance and peace. Being able to open up to the girls helped me let go of my burdens. I knew after being able to share something that was very hard to talk about, but yet so great that I would be a different person from now on.
I’m so different now because I was able to let go of the challenges and situations that kept me from growing in my relationship with God. I now don’t have nearly as much anxiety with everyday activities like being perfect, worrying about what I am going to that night, or during the weekend. The phrase “Pura Vida”, which means pure life, became a motto for my life. To me it means letting go of what I can’t control, and letting God take over.
I learned that even when you feel alone you can still find the beauty in the struggle, challenge, and blessings. Also, I know for a fact I am not alone in life I never have been and never will be I will always have God on my side, I can’t forget the 19 amazing, strong, and faithful girls on this trip that would always have my back too. God truly has a plan with everyone and will take me through so many challenges but I know that he is with me and I need to find the beauty in whatever it may be.