Blind Spots: Costa Rica

With the speed we took each dangerous curve I felt my mortality; knew that if we met another force at one of the blind spots it would be over.  Were we going to die here?  Surely we wouldn’t be the first.  I prayed as we rounded each corner.  On a straight stretch of the path a motorcyclist clutching a surfboard passed us going in the other direction.  When we rose higher than the birds, I looked down on green palms and rolling hills and saw the ocean lining the horizon.  Would this be the last view I saw?  Was I meant to die holding on to my groom?  I prayed for more time.  Why couldn’t I just let go and enjoy flying over the mountain?  Maybe because now I had something to lose.

Two days after our wedding, Matt and I flew to San Jose, Costa Rica.  From there we took a 25 minute flight on a tiny plane to a tiny airport close to our destination, Mal Pais.  Upon arrival to The Place, our hotel, we were welcomed with cool, refreshing watermelon smoothies.  Our bungalow was quaint and quiet, nestled in lush, tropical nature complete with howler monkeys and hummingbirds.  The scene matched my ingrained notion that a honeymoon was meant to be luxurious and carefree, and that we were supposed to be pampered.  While luxury and pampering sounded nice, Matt and I had not chosen Costa Rica so that we could relax and lazily lounge around a pool for a week.  Indeed I had met my match in Matt, and we were much more concerned with exploration and discovering new surf spots and then getting to them before the wind. 

We rented a four-wheeler that would enable us to take the narrow dirt roads that branched off the main road and gain access to any wave.  Our chariot came with two helmets and no place to lock things up, so we bought cheap flip-flops and sunglasses for our surf sessions so we wouldn’t care if they were stolen when left unattended.  We quickly realized we’d need bandanas to cover our noses and mouths to minimize breathing in dust, so we fashioned our own out of my tank-tops.

Our honeymoon fell during the hottest time of the year when the sand punished our toes, thirst and sweat were constant, and the only respite was found underwater.  The first day we surfed and explored the small pebble roads that led to various beaches, but knew there had to be something more.  The beach break was closing out and the rocky reef built fast and then offered a nice wall, but died right away; probably not the right swell direction for that wave.  Under a golden, amber, and baby blue sky we ventured down another road that dead-ended into a fishing village.  That was where we found the stand-up paddle board rental shop and wandered into its cool shadows.  Edith was a tall, slender Costa Rican whose muscular frame rested in a chair behind glass cabinets filled with shiny trophies.  We started a conversation and she kindly shared the coveted information we needed about the waves in the area.  Two right points would probably be working with the current swell direction, and there was one just over the other side of the hill that was never crowded.  Blessed with priceless local knowledge our surf plans were set for the next few days.

Awake before the sun the next day, we began to climb the towering hill as light filtered through the jungle leaves.  Birds glided above us as we took each curve with similar speed.  As we rode, the path snaked up the hill and as we twisted along the corners there were countless moments when we couldn't see if another vehicle was coming.  I couldn't hear another vehicle approaching over the humming of our engine, and we didn't have a horn to alert oncoming traffic.  We continued down the unknown road without two essentials to driving: sight and sound.

I asked God to protect us as we flew down the hill.  Finally, when we reached the bottom and found the right point, the surf was small and we weren't even sure if it was rideable.  At least we had plan B, the other right point to explore.  I dreaded the drive back, and with every corner I anticipated death.  I never thought I would spend so much time on my honeymoon thinking about the end.  I clutched Matt close and prayed, and heard a clear but gentle whisper tell me to let go of the fear and anxiety.  Even though it is true that many people have died on that road, we never had any close calls, and I give God the glory for keeping us safe.

Turns out that our life has been full of blind spots.  Each day brings new uncertainties and we find ourselves constantly repeating the phrase “one day at a time.”  It started with those winding dirt roads in Costa at full speed as we took on one corner at a time and I learned to surrender fear and anxiety and trade it for faith and trust.  Reality found me a far cry from what my expectations were of a honeymoon, covered in dirt or saltwater unless asleep, and rounding corners that carried the weight of death.   Even though expectations and reality didn't usually match up I have peace knowing God is in control.  He knows our future, it is in His hands, and I trust Him.  (Jeremiah 29:11) 

 The four-wheeler puttered through a twirling dirt tornado, the wake from another vehicle that vanished as fast as it bounded around the corner.  The clouds of dust rose like smoke above the palm fronds and dissipated.  Blanketed in grime and sweat, the dire sun aggravated my itchy, sunburnt skin.  I held Matt tight as he steered onward to where we would escape the heat and duck dive the muck away surfing on a long, fun right point break. 

Blind spots make you consider how much you value life,
when at any moment head on collisions are possible,
lurking around the corner,
there is nothing you can do to prepare.

Dust born from the progress and friction of our tires
as they meet the dirt and gravel road.
Dust dances inexhaustibly and we breathe it in
turning our snot brown.

Existing in the realm of possibility,
of ‘maybe not today,’
the mystery of blind spots is
no one knows when the dangers will come.

Our fate fragile, we hold on tight, and take turns that make us vulnerable.
Do you persist because you trust?  Because you have faith?
Or simply because time works this way, it moves forward
and there is no other option or direction to go.

Beautiful Broken Bits: Cocoa Beach, FL

One sultry Sunday evening I sat cross-legged at the beach discussing the wonders of God in the place where He first truly connected with me.

I believe He is a personal God who craves a close relationship with us.  The beach and the ocean have always been a special place for us, because as a surfer I feel His embrace and love with every wave I ride.  His voice calms me in the soothing ebb and flow of the tide, and other times I get slammed by the His truths in the form of powerful, exploding waves.  There I effortlessly draw close and His presence is tangible.

This is common among surfers who believe, so when my friend told me he had started a Bible study on Sunday nights at the Pier and I was free, I gravitated towards were my soul often drew me.

In the warm light of the sunset, we talked about the sand and how it came to be. Weathering processes such as wind, rain and freezing/thawing cycles break down rocks and minerals into smaller grains which becomes sand.  Therefore, sand is countless broken parts of what was once whole.  However, as the master artist would have it, all of these broken bits join with trillions of others to create the beach.  These fractured pieces make up a land mass so majestic and complete; full of exquisite beauty.  We discussed an even more remarkable miracle, that when all of these tiny particles come together they are strong enough to stop the ocean!

I thought about the weathering process of life that people go through.  I have been broken down by living in this world, and often feel like a small fraction of what I once was.  I am broken by my sin and left empty, searching to fill the void.  Yet God had a plan in Jesus Christ to rescue me from my brokenness.  He shines through my mistakes and imperfections.  And when I join with other believers we build each-other up and become stronger than we could ever be on our own.  Strong enough to stop the ocean!

The greatest artist could not draw a more perfect picture of what He created the church to be.  My heart beats for moments like this on the beach or in the sea; when the Lord reveals a perspective changing tid-bit, and I fall deeper in love with Him.

You are invited to join the small group discussions on Sunday nights at the Pier in Cocoa Beach.  For more information, like and follow ISurfForver on Facebook.

Living Rich: Haiti

Barefoot, we sidestepped down mossy and muddy limestone framed by ferns and foliage.  Birds spun in the sky, mingling their morning song with the beat of maracas played by insects and solos by goats, pigs, and roosters.  The sun sparkled on the turquoise Caribbean that peeked through breaks in the overlapping green canopy.  We passed towering trees swollen with mangoes, passion fruit, and bananas.  Kelly and I descended down the steep hill to get to the sea, to immerse ourselves into the saltwater for a few waves.  Our last day there, as we fumbled down the hill, I marveled at a land infamous for poverty, and saw a rich land.

I traveled to Haiti with the Share the Stoke Foundation.  We went to donate surfboards and help open the first surf school started and built by an organization called Surf Haiti.  Based on her reputation, I expected to see a desolate land matched by broken people.  After all, Haitians had every right to be following the earthquake in 2010 that measured a 7.0 on the Richter scale and claimed the lives of an estimated 230,000-316,000.
We flew into Port-au-Prince where Joan from Surf Haiti loaded us into a van, and drove us south in the direction of Jacmel.  We wound through streets that resembled a war zone where throngs of people made their way through commonplace destruction.  Wildly painted buses brimming with souls swerved around us and the aqua ocean loomed between villages of black plastic bags and rubble.  We slowed to a stop around one corner behind some traffic, and I spied an old woman balancing a basket brimming with plump papayas on her head, steadily walking along wearing no pants or shoes, her skinny bottom exposed.

Heart broken, I sat behind the glass windows, a removed spectator, peering at the world operating outside of my bubble.  I watched the chaos of the city transform into a hilly, verdant countryside, and then finally into beach villages on the coast.

Once in Kabik, we caught up with some of Haitian kids at the surf club.  They raked the sand around the newly erected building, collected plastic bottles and trash on the surrounding beach, and placed small rocks and gravel around the school.  Alex explained, “We want to take care of the school because it is ours and something we share and love.”  Later on in the ocean, the kids helped each other for hours, the older ones pushing the younger ones into waves.  They rotated boards and celebrated with successful rides and laughed together at the wipe-outs.
                                                            We ran late on the way to the opening ceremony, as we were stopped by a funeral procession.  I can still feel the vibrations of the brass tuba’s song reverberating through the acoustics of the jungle.  A grand marching band wove up through the trees followed by children, women, men, old and young, assorted as they come.  The band made a victorious, celebratory sound, even as their muscles must have burned from climbing upwards.

A verse from Ecclesiastes surfaced above all my other thoughts,“You learn more at a funeral than at a feast- After all, that’s where we’ll end up.  We might discover something from it.”  – Ecclesiastes 7:2 (The Message translation).

In Haiti life and death were tethered tight, dancing an intimate tango.  Where death had a loud presence among the living, there seemed to be a greater appreciation for the gift of life; the gift of each day.  I wondered if the American culture in which I lived was better off distracted from this universal truth.  Was it better to be a present minded people, living in the now, not worrying about tomorrow or planning too much ahead?
I remember the last supper, of simmering garlic and butter lobster and octopus- fresh from the same crystal sea we surfed in.  Joan, our host, sent one of the kids further up the jungle hill to get the rice from neighbors.  Joan explained that if they lacked an egg or flour for their dinner, the family that lived nearby would send someone over to fetch it.  They simply shared what they had, and everyone had what they needed.

Months after those days in Haiti, I remain inspired by her people.  Materially speaking they had nothing, but they held their heads high and smiled; really smiled.  Despite living in the wake of the earthquake in 2010 and poverty, they were some of the most joyful, loving people I had the privilege of meeting. They gave and accepted love easily and were connected to us, each other, and to nature.  I am left wondering who is rich and who is poor?  What happened to me in Haiti is what happens to countless people who go on mission trips; I set out to impact lives and returned home with my own soul affected than I ever imagined possible.  The morning we hiked down to the beach, taking the short cut through the jungle I saw a glimpse of the beauty of Haiti.  And I remember how that session was just as much about the journey as the wave riding.


The White at Whitsands:CapeTown,South Africa

“If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.  For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.  They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”  - Psalm 91:9-12
The most terrifying day of my life started out fairly normal.  It was my last day in South Africa and time to peel the stickers off the RV and organize our lives neatly back into our suitcases.  After touring the fishing village of Kulk Bay, visiting penguins at Boulder’s beach, and exploring the Cape of Good Hope, my friends and I searched for waves and found them at Whitsands Beach.  The swell delivered crystal clear wedges offering fast, racey walls, alternating with hollow cylinder waves. 
After about an hour, I paddled towards another peak.  I duck dived under whitewater and noticed out of the corner of my eye what looked like a surfer in a black wetsuit duck under the same wave.  It was strange when the surfer never surfaced, and I never saw a board.  I scanned the horizon for a wave and glanced back and saw a huge black shadow under the water a few yards away.  I couldn’t make out what it was, and at first assumed it must be a seal like we’d seen, but it was way too big, way too black, and then I noticed black tips that didn’t belong to any type of seal. 

I glanced away to check the horizon again for a wave and then looked back towards the mysterious creature to discover a big black fin surface right next to me.  There was no doubt about what the creature was now, and I pulled my legs and arms onto my board.  The dark fin was so close I could have touched it.  My heart beat wildly, and I went into shock.  Frozen in fear, I couldn’t scream or move a muscle.  I just wanted to curl up and close my eyes in hopes that when I opened them the large shark would be gone.  I shut my eyes for an instant.  When I looked again to my right I saw only water, but then I looked to my left and saw the fin again and realized the shark had circled me. 
Rory was the closest surfer to me, and began shouting, “PADDLE MISSY, PADDLE!”  SHARK! SHARK! PADDLE!”

His commands stirred me to action, although I was afraid to put my hands and arms into the water.  I began to paddle.  A few seconds later, I glanced behind me expecting the shark to be gone and saw the black fin following close behind me.  In my most horrified breath, I prayed, “God help me!” 

The next moment after I began praying, Rory yelled, “A WAVE MISSY, PADDLE, PADDLE!!!”
When I paddled for waves I always looked back at the wave to gauge the speed to ensure I didn’t outrun the wave or miss it, but this time I couldn’t bring myself to look back.  I simply trusted the wave was coming, and I paddled harder than I had ever paddled and caught the wave.  I stood up and raced down the line as far away from the massive animal as I could get.  All I wanted was to put space between us, and I couldn’t get out of the water fast enough.  The wave died and I fell back down onto my board and continued to paddle for my life.  White water rolled in next to me, and I saw Rory and then Kelly and Tim and the other surfers rushing onto the beach.

We hugged each other once we were all on the sand and the inevitable banter began about everyone’s perspective of the shark.  Rory was the closest to me and had seen both of the fins, and had the horror of watching it follow after me.  He said as soon as I caught the wave the fins disappeared.  Tim and Kelly heard Rory shout “SHARK!” and saw the fins trailing behind me.  They lived a nightmare and felt trapped in the water because as they paddled to get to shore no wave came, and they even had to fight a small rip current.
Rory had surfed for 38 years since he started when he was four, and he said this was the first time he had ever seen a shark while surfing.  There was no doubt it was a great white, and no one considered going back to finish out the session.

The rest of the day I felt bursts of joy for being alive, and I felt so grateful to have all my limbs.  I thanked God for answering my three word prayer with a wave that carried me to safety. 
A week later a man was attacked while surfing in Muizenburg, a beach in Cape Town, not too far from where I had surfed.  He lost his leg.  I will never know why that man lost his leg and I was left unscathed.  All I can do is give God glory for hearing my prayer and rescuing me.      

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name.  When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.”  -Psalm 91:14-15
artwork by Joan Bergmans
of Totally Joan

Let Go and Let God

My attention was arrested by a kite-surfer as he harnessed the pure energy of the fierce wind.  The kiter flew to a curling wave, dropped in, carved up and down the face, and then soared up and out.  He escaped back into the sky as the wave slammed shut, the curtain closed.  Envy pumped through my veins as I got pummeled by the volatile whitewater from a wave.  I paddled and duck dived to survive in the hectic blown-out surf.  I wished I could fly to any wave like the kite-boarders, and then escape the brunt of the waves’ explosion.  Instead, I fought with the ocean and grew fatigued working hard for every wave I rode.  I collapsed on the beach and stared at the superhero-like kiters who decorated the sky and sea on the horizon; entranced and intrigued.  I wasn’t content to stay on the sidelines watching for long.  

The kite danced through the sky as I grasped the handle and guided it above my head.  The sun stung my eyes, and I was careful not to make any sudden big movements.  I was learning to kitesurf, and learning to manage the power of the mighty wind.  I had learned how to generate power by lowering the kite into the power window and then moving it in a figure eight.  

A kiter glided over the water and launched 40 feet into air and then did a complete flip before landing smoothly.  I watched, jealous it would be ages before I could launch myself like that.   A strong gust of wind blew and tugged at my kite.  Suddenly, the kite was alive in the power zone, and as I kept the figure eight pattern, the kite powered up and pulled me out into the water.  I sailed over the water and instinctually pulled the handle toward myself wanting to stop and regain control.  This did the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish, and the kite powered up more and pulled me harder until I slammed down face first into the water.  Finally I surrendered and let go of the handle.  I was released from the power and the kite fell from the air to the river.  

Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us- they help us learn to endure.  And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.”

While I knew to release the power I was supposed to let go, in the most crucial moment I pulled the handle towards me to try to regain control.  However that was the worst thing I could do.  I was embarrassed and frustrated, because even though I knew not to pull in and power up, I did it anyway.  

I sat on the shore recovering from the high speed face plant, and realized how much this lesson related to my life and greater issues with control.  Sometimes I want something so much, that I hold on to it too tight, or I try to manipulate situations to get my way.  Usually the more I try to control the situation or try to get what I want, I become frustrated because I am reaching and pulling in my own power.  I realize that the more I put my hands on it, the more disappointed I get when things don’t go the way I want.  After I am exhausted and discouraged from trying to do things in my own power, I realize I need to rest in the promises of the Lord- that he has a perfect plan and perfect timing.  All I need to do is relinquish the control and power I think I have and just let go.  

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

God is always in control, and His plans will always prevail.  Even knowing this, sometimes the hardest thing to do is just be still.  With clenched hands I try to grasp what I think I need or want.  I am learning over and over again to let go and submit to what God wants.  When I open my hands in surrender that he knows what is best for me, I find rest, the deepest freedom, and peace.  And it is only with open hands I am open to receive all that he has for me. 

Surf & Serve No Matter the Conditions

For the first time in my surfing life, I stopped allowing surfing to be my priority with everything else finding its place around it.  I started my career and new life as a flight attendant.   I had learned that there was more to life than surfing, yet it was still deep in the fabric of my being.

During training I endured ten to twelve hour classes and tests daily.  Failing a test meant packing up and heading home, so the stakes were high.  I clung to God through it all, and when I could squeeze in a surf session I sped to the beach.  I didn’t check the surf report to see if the wind was blowing hard on-shore, or clean and off-shore, or the waves were big or small.  I craved the board under my skin, the sun on my back, and vowed to surf no matter what.  As the saltwater washed over me, God spoke to my heart about serving him.

Matthew 20:28, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The core of Christ’s purpose was to serve, and in the Bible it is stated countless times in countless ways that as Christ imitators we are called to serve and love other people for him.  Surfers check the waves and surf reports frequently to contemplate if the conditions merit a session.  If there is too much wind and the waves aren’t perfect, surfers wonder if it is even worth paddling out.  God showed me a similar trend with serving, where at times if the conditions weren’t just right in my life, I struggled in helping others. 
In Philippians 4:11 Paul wrote that he learned to be content in whatever situation life found him in.  I am challenged by this and realized that sometimes I get so far into my own situation, which is never going to be perfect, and become overwhelmed by emotions and feelings attached to the junk.  As a result, I have sometimes been guilty of feeling too empty and too tired to care about others.  The voice of the enemy is eager to steal any joy he can and whispers, “Is it even worth serving when you are sad?  You should be the one that should be served.”

But I know I am not called to be controlled by my fluctuating feelings, and I have never regretted helping someone in need.  No matter what is going on with me, the moment I leave my situations and feelings behind to serve someone else, I feel better.  I have always found joy in putting someone else’s needs above my own.  It can even be therapeutic, as I cannot count the number of times that volunteering has put my trials into perspective.  David penned in the book of Psalms that “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” just as when I serve my own troubles melt away. 

And like serving, regardless of the conditions, I have never been sorry I paddled out, because the scent of foaming, salty sea spray mixed with sunshine and the breeze is impossible to bottle up and replicate.  No matter what the conditions of the waves, this elusive scent exists, and the only way to experience its refreshing effects is to be there, in the water, paddling and duck-diving, skimming along on the surface of the sea.  No matter how much time has passed since I last rode a wave, and no matter how tormented I find the state of the ocean to be in, its grip on my heart and soul remain, and there I am always at peace; at home enveloped in the pockets of the water. 

I will surf no matter the conditions, and serve God no matter the conditions.

The Road to Playgrounds: Nicaragua

“For it is by grace you have been saved; through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God.” -Ephesians 2:8

If it is by faith alone that we are saved, then how important is our faith?  I spent a few minutes meditating on this simple but crucial fact while I sipped Nicaraguan coffee and roosters crowed.  I prayed God would increase my faith and for it to always grow.

We were four surf sisters, and these were the days of our lives.  Down to our last few mornings in this wild country it was time to explore in the Hilux, a trusty four-wheel drive Toyota.  Megan was our driver, Bailey rode shotgun as the co-pilot, and Stephanie and I shared the backseat.  She quietly observed while I was a full on back-seat driver. 

We picked up our first hitchhiker, an old, round Nicaraguan woman.  We dropped her off in her village and after spying tiny waves there we decided to venture on down the dirt road.  None of us knew what was ahead of us, but we were committed to explore.  A wooden sign on the side of the road read ‘Chococente’ marking another dirt road, and I remembered my friends said it was a fun beach break.  I told Megan to follow that way hoping we would find the beach.

The road forked, and we stayed to the right only to end up in an overgrown field surrounded by jungle.  As we turned around, a boy ran up to the truck shouting, “Playgrounds, Playgrounds!”  On a boat trip we had caught multiple peaks at the reef break known as Playgrounds and though we had heard a rumor about a road to the spot, we never heard of anyone driving there.

Wedged between Stephanie and myself Jonathan, the boy, and I chatted about our arrangement.  He said his parents would not be worried because they knew what he was doing.  He asked for money to buy school clothes, and I said if he worked we would pay him at the end.  He nodded and told me this was his job; he would guide us to Playgrounds and guard the truck while we surfed.  There was never a debate.  In fact, it was the quickest decision we made.  Hungry for waves and to surf the reef again, we accepted this boy’s proposal.  I was impressed by the young entrepreneur and liked the way he invented work for himself.

The excursion began with crossing through a small river.  Next we ascended a small hill, and the road grew very narrow and there was a steep cliff to the left.  It was clear that after this point there was no turning back.  There was no space to turn around, and the only way back would be to drive the narrow track in reverse.  Because of heavy rainfall the night before the road to Playgrounds was a muddy mess, and the consistency of the mud changed as we weaved through the jungle.  The road was a mystery as we traveled up and down hills covered in giant pot holes and puddles.  Over the years of surf adventures in remote areas I never witnessed a road so dangerous. 

As we forged on into the unknown I realized how close I felt to God, because I was aware of my utter and total reliance on him.  I had absolutely zero control, and part of me wanted to panic.  Between prayers Bailey kept repeating don’t drink the water, save the water, and don’t eat anymore Pringles.  Stephanie sat there stunned and speechless.

I prayed and prayed.  Please God, keep us safe, direct us, protect and surround this truck with your angels.  Please make this puddle be shallower than it looks.  Please help us down this steep hill in Jesus name!  I thanked God for making Megan a little bit of a redneck because she was the only one capable of maneuvering this.  I asked him to allow the Holy Spirit to operate through her.  He gave me peace of mind because he promised me he would take care of us.  We were his girls.  I told him over and over if we made it out of this mess it would be only because of him, and he would get all the glory for it. 

Megan drove on, attempting to stay on the higher contours of the road, but fish tailed into the ditches.  Somehow she remained calm and kept driving because she knew that turning back was not an option.  It was scary to realize how much we were not in control.  How often do we live under the illusion that we are in control?  It is when we reach a crucial point, when our faith is tested, that we realize we are not, nor have ever been in control at all.  That is when our faith saves us, as we have nothing else but to trust in his mighty hands; the very hands that created the heavens and the earth, the author of salvation. 

As we inched closer to our destination we were excited when we passed two different thatched roof homes.  After being so deep in the desolate jungle, evidence of human life brought twinges of hope.  An old man peered at us from the doorway of his house with his forehead all crinkled up; a look of pure shock and confusion.  When we passed the second home a family gathered at the doorway to watch us pass.  Apparently, travelers were not a common sight.

Finally the road grew wider and the soft mud mixed with sand to create firm ground, and Jonathan pointed where to park.  We hiked through the trees and vines with the sound of the ocean easing our pounding hearts.  The ocean glistened in the sunlight and though we reached our goal, Playgrounds, we didn’t find the waves we remembered because it was dead low tide.  The shift in tides is so dramatic in Nicaragua that the waves we surfed at high tide on the boat trip did not even exist now.  We floated around in a tide pool to cool off and decompress before the return journey.
We knew that we couldn’t focus on the past, because at this moment we needed to stay focused on the path to come.  We could only use the past to learn from and to make our path forward better than the past.

As I prayed the word traction came to focus.  I realized that if our tires could not grip the road we would not make it up the steep muddy sections.  I told Megan to stop the truck as soon as we found a safe flat spot.  I got out and dug the layers of caked mud off the tires.  Every twenty yards or so I would ask Megan how her control felt, and when she felt no grip we would get out and again dig the mud out.  We worked under the hot sun while howler monkeys mocked us and howled down from the highest summits of verdant gum trees and various palms.

Rosa, a spiritual woman we met in the north, said that butterflies were a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence.  Groups of them danced in improvised flutters as we peeled the mud away and carried on down the road.

When we got back to our hostel spackled in dirt the others couldn’t believe we took that road.  Even the locals don’t drive there, especially in the rainy season!

We relied on our faith to get us through, and gave God all the glory.  We were like the small white butterflies that hovered and swarmed around thick mud; happy, wild, and free bursting forth into the sunlight and oppressing humidity as if being born of the mud and emerging only after the rain.