I went to Costa Rica for my 32nd birthday with a few close friends!
But, there’s so much more to the story than the pictures ever can share…
One of the definitions of Bittersweet is “both pleasant and painful”. I have always known what this word means, especially as it pertains to food (such as bittersweet chocolate). However, I do not know that I have ever had such a vivid and personal scenario that is best described as: Bittersweet.
For my birthday, a few of my best friends and I planned for me and a group of my girlfriends to escape to Costa Rica… Secretly, I think they were all tired of me complaining about winter ruining my birthday every year!
So, we found an amazing deal to go to Vista De Olas in the Mal Pais region of Costa Rica. Beautiful, and full of adventures waiting to be had. It was going to be epic, we had all sorts of fun things planned, and they had a slew of surprises up their sleeves. Jokes about the trip permeated our conversations for months as we planned and dreamed.
As the dates got closer, we all worked harder towards our goals financially, physically, and made lists of all the pictures and things we wanted to experience while in Costa Rica. It was going to be such an adventure, but we had such a fun time of planning and laughing at each other’s plans!
Three days before we were scheduled to leave, one of my best friends, who was also scheduled to come to with us had the worst day of her life. Without giving all the details of her story, her brother passed away in his sleep. It was a day and more than a week full of so much sorrow for her, her family, and loved ones. No one should have to navigate the death of a loved one… and as a best friend, there are no words or actions that can be done to make it better.
Pain and sorrow. That is the best way I can describe it all.
Two days later, her, myself, and another mutual best friend gathered and just sat together and cried. We spent hours sitting in silence, talking, crying, and just staring off into the distance as we processed and just experienced the loss of it all. There is so much pain in this unexpected season, and none of us know how to do this well, so we spent time just talking through our pain and sorrow for each other, and figuring out trying to support and navigate it all.
Pain and sorrow.
The following morning I turned 32; and I boarded an early plane headed for Costa Rica to celebrate my birthday with four beautiful and amazing women that are such good friends of mine… But, also without one.
My heart was overflowing with so much pain and sorrow. I spent the first part of the morning fighting back tears and trying to figure out how to celebrate and experience an amazing and fun trip that was planned by all of us; yet knowing one of my best friends was absent, and going through the worst week of her life… And struggling through the guilt of going without her, even though we had talked through it and she wanted me to go; it doesn’t reduce the sorrow experienced.
I kept finding myself circling my thoughts back around to the fact that we had planned this whole thing months prior, and yet God knew what would happen. So, why had he created this space for me to be separated? – Not in a questioning His goodness, but rather questioning the purpose and process He wanted with me when this space was created.
Each morning we spent time just being. Sleeping, reading scripture, journaling, and just sitting still to soak in the view before we went on adventures or to a beach.
The ocean and sunshine have always been my go-to place to find Jesus and a soul reset. My mind almost instantly finds peace and calmness when I smell the ocean water and hear the waves. I have never had to fight for it before, yet I found myself heart-sick, and struggling to connect with God. I was fighting to find peace and release of my pain and anxiety. I knew what I needed, but I just couldn’t seem to get there.
A couple of nights into the trip, we gathered together on our patio and shared all of the different struggles we were each trying to work through. Anxiety and fear were the common thread between each one of us. The trip was a bittersweet escape for everyone. We spent a great deal of time just sitting silently together, each somewhat reluctant to share our own anxieties, but when all was said and done, we prayed while I looked at the stars.
The sky was expansive, never-ending, and beautiful.. Created and intricate by a God who cares and knows pain and sorrow intimately.
That night, I went to sleep with no change in feelings, but a desperate need to connect with Him.
When I awoke in the morning, my sorrow for the situation had not changed, but I knew God was ready to spend some time together. I journaled and read scripture for longer that morning, and then swam to the edge of the infinity pool and just waited for God to show up.
Ever so slowly God replaced my anxiety with peace, He took my overwhelming sorrow and sided it with His Grace and understanding. He didn’t remove the pain and sorrow, but it no longer felt too much. Bittersweet. I could now see the sweetness of this trip without first seeing the pain. God met my needs with Himself, and I knew the pain wasn’t over, but the anxiety was put to rest, and I could now enjoy the trip fully, while experiencing the sorrow fully as well; but not feeling it tainted.
While the trip is over, the pain and sorrow certainly is not. Death and grief are not simple nor easy. Life is different and changed forever, this next season is not what anyone wanted or planned, but it will be met with more of the Grace, Love and Mercy of our Lord.
Costa Rica was everything I needed it to be. I was able to find rest, to reset my heart, soul, and mind. I had the space to pause and grieve and hurt on behalf of someone else I love so much that words fall short.
God met me in Costa Rica with mercy new and specific for now.
Turning 32 was not what I expected, but it will forever be a marker for me. Bittersweet.