Eliana’s View: Learning Love Through Spanish Slip-Ups

Spanish–one of the heartbeats of Costa Rica. I joke with kids, give instructions, and connect with people, all in a second language. A knack for accents gives me some native flair, but I know grammar goofs aren’t hidden by trilling my r’s. Teams marvel at my conversations with the staff, but they don’t notice my mis-conjugated verbs and mixed up pronouns. Like when I gave the time as 10 o’clock and it was 2, or my tongue twist flubs in front of large groups, mistakes are just part of the landscape when I speak.

The other day a little sweetheart ran to me and asked for “ostillas.” You want tortillas? No, ostillas! Puzzled, I found a tía and asked what was up.

The wise women spoke Spanish in both grown up and toddler dialects. She burst into laughter, then explained the request was for costillas*. It translates on any menu as ribs, but in kid-lingo means tickles.

Tickles, not tortillas. I laughed, too, but was still discouraged. I’ve been practicing for 5 years. Why aren’t I perfect by now?

img_8340Then I thought about my Spanish when I first arrived. My vocabulary was slim, and my grammar worse. I threw nouns and verbs together and got mishmashed results. It was a miracle that I could communicate anything back then, but I did.

People were kind; they were glad I was trying.

As time went by, I improved. My sentences started coming together, components working in the right order. I learned how I do, she does, they did, and we didn’t. I practiced that everything has a gender and where it goes in the action of my phrases. Little words make big differences. They are easy to forget, too. I get better, day by day.

But still not perfect.

And that’s the way I am without God. Imperfect. Incomplete. But with him, I am made new. His love offsets my flaws, physical, grammatical, and spiritual.

Even my Spanish ones.

The kids don’t see me for my errors. The tías don’t judge me for all my mess ups. So why should I?

God’s love fills in the gaps of my mistakes. His grace covers my subjects, verbs, and pronouns. His joy laughs with me over my blunders. His peace soothes my heart when discouragement comes knocking. He is working in everything, even my Spanish slip-ups.

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18 ESV

Kris’s note: It’s always fun to write with my girl. She brings the diamond and together we polish it. I am proud of her for pressing into a skill that doesn’t come easy and learning about love in the mishaps.

*Case in point: a beautiful Tica just explained to me after reading this, the real word is “cosquillas.” So even now we’ve slipped up, writing about slip-ups. And even grown up Spanish can be misunderstood. Thanks for laughing along with us.

How difficult is it to do things you aren’t great at? Have you ever found yourself growing in unexpected ways as you make mistakes? Leave a comment below and share your story with us.

Eliana’s View: Tiny Victories

Smallest in his house, Walter captures hearts.  His short stature and sweet face draw me in every time.  Walter is all boy.  He loves trucks and tricycles.  He prefers walking alone to holding hands.  A bit unsteady on his feet, he dashes all over campus to find adventures.

His expression is serious.  When we met, his face was impassive, and he shied away from my open arms.  As the playtime ticked by, he warmed up.  I’m sure the bubbles and cars helped.  Still cautious, he walked along with me, pushing a dump truck.

Then it came: we paused on our trek and I wiggled my fingers along his belly.  His face broke into a smile.  Victory #1.  We were getting somewhere.

Towards the end of our time, however, disaster struck. Walter was intent on pushing his truck too far from the play zone.  I planted my feet and blocked him.  He did his best to outmaneuver me, but I wouldn’t let him by.  His frown turned to tears, and he dissolved into a fit.  I waited him out.

After the worst of the storm, I scooped him up and carried his truck back to the play area.  He liked the ride.  His sniffles diminished, so I set down the vehicle and put him on his own feet.

More meltdown mode.  Seeing me as a good source of love and transportation, Walter refused to walk.  He grabbed my legs and tried climbing them, but I knew this game enough to choose not to play.  He threw himself on the ground and screamed.  Oh boy.

A few minutes and a borrowed tricycle later, he settled down.  His expression went flat as we made our way to the house.  No smile for me when I said goodbye.


The next week, we saw each other more.  He started to beam at my enthusiastic greetings.  I learned his tickle spots, and he would let me hold his hand when we walked.  Victory #2.  Sweet progress being made.

But how would he act when he was upset?  I found out soon enough.  Walter burst into tears that afternoon when he bumped his head at playtime.  I picked him up and soothed him with my Spanish.  I took him to the gate and pointed to the falling rain outside.  He relaxed as we looked at the glistening grass and trees.

When I made my move and set him down, he erupted once again.  I held his hands but refused to pick him up.  If you were fine just a few minutes ago, you should be fine now.  His arms around my legs, I shuffled to the couch and sat down.

He followed me up on the sofa.  I let him crawl into my lap, thinking I could eventually slide him off and sit next to him, then get up and play.  His little figure unstiffened and was comforted.

All too soon, it was time to leave.  I shifted him off my lap.  No whimpering.  Victory #3.

I stood, picked up a balloon, and handed it to him.  He took it, still solemn, but content.  His eyes followed me the whole way to the door.  With a quick wave, and no crying, I exited.

These victories are small, but dear.  Trust is being built and a little life changed.

Next time I’m going for #4.  I want a smile from him as I go.

What tiny victories are you celebrating these days?


Truck Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash


Eliana’s View: Laughter & Pink Rice

The grass crunched under the picnic blanket as the toddlers settled down to eat.  Haley snuggled into my lap, ready for some lunch after a fun morning of playing. The tía passed out bowls of food, and the kids dug in.

The lunch was simple and traditional, but delicious.  Rice and beans speckled the bowl, with some cheese off to the side.  The usual salad was replaced with a new vegetable: tiny cubes of beets.  The juice spread around the bowl, painting the rice a bright magenta.

Haley picked up a piece of cheese, and happily nibbled away.  I paused her munching every once in awhile to spoon in a bite of beans and rice.  Slowly but surely, the food began to disappear into the princess’s tummy.

Except for the beets.  

Haley sampled one piece, then refused to eat any more.  I tried to hide them in the rice on her spoon, or cover them with the beans, but she always caught me.  She would hold up her hand, inspect the food on the spoon, and pluck off the pink veggies. I could not get a single one past her.


Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

Marlene, the nurse, came up to the group with a warm greeting.  She knelt and talked to the kids as they ate, putting smiles on their faces with her playful antics.  Turning to Haley, she saw the inspection and rejection process.

“Haley, why aren’t you eating your vegetables?”  My lunch buddy just grinned, pulling another one off the spoon.  Marlene leaned in close and dropped her voice to a whisper. “You wanna know something cool about beets?”  

Haley looked up expectantly.

“If you eat them, they turn your pee pink!”

Laughter welled up inside me.  I could not hold it in. One look at Marlene, and we set each other off.  Our giggles danced around the children.

We twinkled down at our Haley, and she smiled back—with a mouth full of beets.

Laughter (and the promise of pink pee) had helped the beets go down.


A cheerful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22a NIV

Do you have any “pink pee” secrets for doing life?

Eliana’s View: Asha’s Story

Newest to the toddler house, Asha held my hand as we led the way to the pool.  She stepped up to the fence and pressed her face up to the bars to peer at the shimmering surface.  The tía unlocked the gate, and we followed the train of eager faces onto the warm concrete.  Squeals and excited yells abounded as the toddlers jumped into the water.

But not Asha.

In the blink of an eye, her expression dimmed.  The same child that had smiled at me all morning now wore a panicked expression on her face.  My brow wrinkled.  Why was she so scared?  I stepped closer to the water, and she let out a sob.  She buried her face in my leg and held on tightly.  A new realization entered my head.

She’s afraid of the water.

The same sparkling blue that looked so inviting to me was what gave Asha so much terror.  I had seen fears of water before, but not one as paralyzing as this.  With each step I took closer to the water, she screamed more and clung tighter.


One of the tías noticed my plight and brought over a box for me to sit on in the shade.  I led Asha over and sat down, and she climbed into my lap.  Her body slowly relaxed as we watched the splashing and laughter that went on before us.

Though we sat in the shade, the sun still peeked through peepholes in the leaves and reached us down below.  The day was heating up.  The cooling water looked even more refreshing when I was silently dripping, a few feet away.

The breeze rustled Asha’s dark curls, bringing with it an idea.  I shifted her off my lap and moved slowly towards the pool.  She clung to my hand and fussed all the way.  When I was within arm’s reach of the water, I stopped.  I dipped my hand into the water and splashed it onto my hot, dusty feet.  Then I dipped my hand in again and ladled water onto her feet.  The cool water glistened on our toes.  Her tense figure softened, and we walked back to our box in the shade.

After another five minutes, we got up and walked to the water a second time.  Within a minute we would return to our box, feet cooled off and refreshed.  Another few minutes, and we did it again.  And again.  And again.  Each time we went, Asha stepped a little closer to the water.  She started pointing out her feet like a ballerina so I could put more water on them.  With each trip we made, her fear diminished a bit more.

As lunchtime drew near, it was time to go.  Leaving Asha sitting in the shade, the tías and I began to bring the soaked toddlers out, one by one, to dress and dry them.  After a few minutes, I looked up to a sweet surprise.

There was Asha, squatted at the edge of the pool, dipping her hands in the water. 

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As she splashed around, her face was lit up with a smile.  She turned and sat on the edge, dangling her feet into the pool.  My heart melted.  This sweet princess, brand new to the Hogar family, was blossoming before my very eyes.

Asha still is afraid of the water.  Each new day, the tías give her their love and support, and she dips her hands in for one more day.  They know she will be afraid tomorrow, but God’s love outlasts that fear.  It never ends.  It wraps Asha in comfort and peace, so that she can touch the water once more.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

Lamentations 3:1

Kris’s Note:  We all have hopes for our children.  Taking our babies out of the nest of our community in the states and learning to do life in Costa Rica was a leap of faith.  The Lord promised to take good care of each of us.  As Eliana shares her experience here, I see fulfillment of that promise.  I could not be more proud of her.