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Extremely Blessed

My brother Daniel is currently here visiting us and in less than 24 hrs we have already managed to give him the true Costa Rican missionary experience. Something we have learned to be prepared for while living here is to always always be ready for something to not go according to our plan. In other words, prepare ourselves with a ready attitude for things we can’t necessarily anticipate or prepare for. I’m laughing to myself as I write this, realizing how our attitude truly can change seemingly unchangeable circumstances. I am so grateful for a God we can fully put our faith and trust in, who can guard our hearts and minds, is faithful to provide for us, and guide us through any circumstance. My brother had a late flight, which we thought was great because there would be no traffic. Well what we didn’t consider was the possibility that the truck might break down and that Matt and Dan would be stranded on a freeway in San Jose at 11 pm! We are so grateful to the Lord for keeping them safe and providing a very neighborly taxi driver who helped them acquire the supplies they needed to get themselves and the truck back home. Praise the Lord!

We were all up until at least 2:30 am; not the best start for our Sunday morning service, but it is so like our Lord to work good in all things and cultivate our faith and dependence upon Himself so that He is proven faithful and glorious. We were especially blessed today by the meeting together of His people, through worship, prayer, Bible teaching, and fellowship. One of the young ladies, Ashley, volunteered to begin helping with the projection of the lyrics to the worship songs; this was an answer to prayer for the service gaps to be filled that will be left by Matthew and I when we leave in the end of September. It’s mornings like these that the “bittersweet” feelings mentioned in our last post resurface in a longing to stay and see what more the Lord is going to continue to work here. We find this feeling a comfort in a way; for us it has been a reassurance of the healthy little church body that God will continue to work through and to grow in our absence. We have certainly been extremely blessed to participate in His glorious work here on this mountain in Costa Rica and we do look forward to hearing of the future fruit when we aren’t close enough to see it daily anymore. (If this is the first time you’ve read of our departure, you can read a little bit more about it in our previous blog post: Bittersweet.)

Some of the church fellowshipping after the messageDavid being wrapped up for his role as Lazarus in the children’s lesson

Our team was invited to start ministering in a second local school nearby in Cedral. I had occasionally been visiting this school to help with their English lessons and the teacher had asked us if we could share some Bible lessons! Our first lessons was on David and Goliath and we were blessed with an awesome time sharing with the kids. The school, as well as our community has been rapidly growing with many new families seeking refuge from the unrest and violence in Nicaragua. The same school teacher mentioned above asked us to reach out to and invite some of the new arrivals to our Sunday church service. When we dropped by their home, no one was there, but we left an invitation to church and we were encouraged by the teacher’s concern for her students as well as her support for them to be hearing the word of God.

Don and Matt were also able to finish the long awaited tool shed, which has freed up space in the main building and made things feel much more organized and functional! This is a view from the side before the final wall was enclosed.

We are so grateful for your continued prayers, encouragement, and support as we serve in Costa Rica. Don and Meisha Brown will be continuing in service as missionaries here after we leave. They have a blog as well as a Facebook page where you can keep up with them and the work in Costa Rica as well as support them: https://costaricachurch.ccpville.com/ We also want y’all to meet Sammy, the Brown’s new doggie who showed up and stayed after quickly working his way into their hearts.

Bitter Sweet

Hola everyone! I will do my best to catch you all up on the past few months!

First was the team from Calvary Chapel Placerville that joined us for a week in April; what a blessing! We were so encouraged by the love and fellowship they brought along with them as well as their hearts to serve. I can honestly say there wasn’t a dull moment for the week that they were here serving. Two big things they were able to bless the ministry with were driveway maintenance and working to improve our water situation. These two tasks involved lots of physical labor, but they were up for the challenge! The team was also able to reach out to our community here on the mountain, helping to further open doors to more relationships and the sharing of Christ. They hosted a 4 day VBS, and so many kids and families were blessed! I was also able to learn a lot of practical things from the program the team brought for the kiddos. The team was able to find time to help our neighbors begin to rebuild their deck that was damaged in the big land slide last October. Certain members of the team were also dedicated solely to ministering and encouraging Matthew and I; needless to say we were very well ministered and encouraged. Some members of the team came early and/or stayed late helping us with worship music and more work projects around the church.

We have so much to share with you all about the work God has been doing among the small group of believers here. First is that two more people from the mountain have come to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their savior from a life of sin and death! Secondly, a men’s only Bible study has formed and they are meeting every Tuesday evening. Some of the ladies have also begun gathering Tuesday evening to pray at Nela and Agustin’s place. Meisha and I have also begun studying Philippians once a week with one of the ladies from the church. Lastly, we have moved the weekly Bible studies to Sunday morning, and the church body is really beginning to come more consistently. We are so blessed to give glory to God for all of these things and appreciate your continued prayers.

Don and Matt have been hard at work building a tool shed for the many many tools that have been accumulating here for various work projects and maintenance. Once it is finished, not only will it be so much easier to access the tools that are needed, but our space in the church building will be less cluttered and freed up for ministry supplies. Don and Meisha have also been working hard to turn our ministry building into a more pleasant and welcoming environment through paint and decor. The English classes at the school have continued as well as our relationships grown with the children, families, and community. It has truly been such a blessed opportunity.

David Taylor was able to come serve with us for 3 weeks and his heart to serve sure blessed us and the people here! He brought many thoughtful gifts to help us in our ministry here, helped teach the kids, worked on a water chlorination system, encouraged us and much much more. It is so great to have help not only from large teams, but also individuals who are called by God to serve here for a season.

In July we were able to host an outreach for the children and their families. We had worship songs (which the mamas of the children who attended helped lead!), bible study, crafts, relays, water balloons, activities, s’mores, and lunch! It was so great to see the church body here serving and helping to make this outreach happen! We felt such a sense of unity and love in Christ after that day.

Don and Meisha Brown, our new partners in ministry, have been settling in and getting used to mountain missionary life. Everyone has been blessed by their gifts in worship music, teaching, overall hearts of service, and friendship. They have started a Facebook page where they post updates and pictures often: https://www.facebook.com/Frutas-de-Amor-Costa-Rica-183758728952373/ Really, the pictures are great, so make sure you check it out! The Browns appreciate your continued prayers as they seek the Lord for His continual guidance and provision in this ministry.

Matthew and I have also been seeking the Lord for His guidance, and have come to a big next step: September 24 we will be making the move back to California. Our time here has been blessed beyond what we could have imagined and we are so grateful for all the Lord has done and the support you all have given us here. Our hearts are both sad to be leaving and excited to see what God has in store for us in this next chapter; it is a true example of “bitter sweet.” We appreciate your prayers as we make this transition as do Don and Meisha as they adjust into being the main full time ministers here. Please also pray for more long-term servants in this place, especially for a Spanish speaking pastor.

Thank you all for keeping up with us and holding us in your prayers, we are so grateful and so are the people.

Introducing: Autumn

As our time with the March missions team came to a close we were so grateful for all that had been accomplished while they were here and for the encouragement boost we personally received from the fellowship and help. Things have not slowed down since then; in fact, I am trying to write and post this update before our next team arrives from the airport within an hour! I know that if I don’t share with you guys now, so much of what has happened will be lost in light of all the new things that our Lord is going to do this week!

First, we want to introduce you to our new puppy: Autumn! We got her about two months ago and she has been a complete joy to have in our family and our ministry.

Secondly, we want to share with you about the team of 3 men who came for a week in March to help us with some of the tree clean-up from the October land slide. They were able to clear a main drainage ravine behind our house of massive amounts of tree debris, so that when the rains returned we wouldn’t have any flooding. They also cut down some trees that were close to our home so we can have a little more peace when the winds and rains are strong. Shayne was also able to help us with some little fixes that needed to be done on our house.

Their work was just in time as a the rains returned early (about 4 days ago) and strong! Thankfully with the clearing work our main ravine did very well; however, our new culvert and driveway did not fair so well. Our 1 meter wide culvert was almost instantly clogged and filled to overflowing by much of the still loose land and rocks from the October slide so our driveway became the new river once again. Unfortunately one of the big drop-offs that was created by the October slide and rains that we had filled in, re-formed in the short time span of 2 hrs. Matt worked non-stop with a few local guys to repair some of the driveway damage and create some ditches and water-bars to hopefully divert the water when the next rains come. We have been so blessed to have 3 solid days of no rain to get this done. We are so grateful for your prayers as the forecast has predicted rain every day!

For our most recent visa renewal, we traveled to Guatemala Antigua during Easter time. We were so grateful to have a time of true rest and enjoyment and really loved Guatemala. We were able to see the Holy Week processions, as well as the beautiful “Alfombras,” which are creatively designed carpets in the streets made up of colorful sawdust, flowers, fruits, and palm branches. We also were able to attend a bilingual church service at a Calvary Chapel church! In one of the home-made craft markets, we met a wonderful Native, Christian woman named Gloria whom we were able to pray with and receive mutual encouragement.

During the week that the March team was here, I was able to begin teaching English at the school in Caragral 4 days a week! This has been such a sweet time growing with the kids that we already know and building new relationships with those who I didn’t know. I am also going to begin helping at the school in Cedral Arriba 1 day a week. This is a great opportunity as there are about 10 kids at that school of whom I only know 1 currently.

We are so happy to announce the arrival of the two newest members of our long-term missions team this morning! Don and Meisha Brown have joined us with open hands to the Lord and hearts to serve where God has led them. Please keep them in your prayers as they adjust to making this their new home and ministry.

Some other prayer requests are for our driveway to be able to withstand the coming rains and wisdom to know what to do about the loose earth. Please also pray for safety, success, and hearts that are ready to grow in Jesus for the team arriving today and Sunday. Please always keep our weekly Saturday Bible studies, guitar lessons, and computer lessons in your prayers. A huge praise is that our new and improved water filter is working to give us clean water and keep us healthy. We love you, miss you, and are so grateful for your continued prayers and encouragement.

The Silent Months

On January 3rd 2018, we officially celebrated one full year of living in Costa Rica as missionaries! As you may have noticed, I fell silent on the blog reporting for our last 3 months of the year. Looking back, of course I wish I would have kept you all in the loop better, but I will do my best to catch you up now.

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We began October with a visit home to California. We enjoyed our time immensely and quickly discovered that 2 weeks out of a year is NOT enough time to catch up with all the people we love and miss. In the future we hope to make our home visit a little longer so that it involves more rest and less sickness! While we were away visiting in California, tropical storm Nate hit all of Costa Rica very hard; some of you may have seen my posts for prayer on Facebook about this. Overall, Nate affected many people; entire homes and bridges were wiped away by the intense overflowing rivers, many did not have potable water, and huge landslides claimed homes and closed roads. In our area specifically, our neighbors lost their home to a major landslide which also continued down to our property, completely burying our driveway under tons of dirt, whole trees, rocks, and other debris. The bottom half of our driveway that wasn’t buried, was washed away. The storm and slide also took out our water and power. Our neighbors had to flee their home in the middle of the night to escape the slide. We are sad to say that they are now living in San Jose and don’t plan on returning as their home is considered a total loss. In addition to our direct neighbors, our mountain community was unable to leave for days due to the land slides and raging rivers. When we returned later in October, Agustin and Nela allowed us to stay with them for a couple of weeks while we began to work on a plan for restoring our water, electricity, and road access. It was an emotional time reuniting with people on the mountain and seeing in person the damage and change that had taken place. We could really sense that everyone felt closer to one another after enduring the storm and it’s after effects together. After our two week stay with Agustin and Nela, we rented a small cottage in Caragral directly neighboring our friend Carmen’s home. We stayed there for two weeks while we worked to get the power and water restored to our home. It was very fun being so near to the kids and family we minister to on a weekly basis. During the past few months we have been holding our weekly Bible studies in Carmen’s home while our building was inaccessible except by foot. We were extremely encouraged when Carmen approached us after the slide expressing her desire for the studies to continue and the important role she feels they play in her grandchildren’s lives.

In November we moved back into our home after the power, water, and phone/internet were restored. We did not have road access, so we were parking behind a nearby friend’s home and hiking down to our house through a path in the land slide. Matt Schneider came to visit us and help determine how we were going to restore our driveway and clear the land slide. The week before he came, the ladies who attend our Bible study came to help me clean the building as it had been sitting for a month! I was so grateful as the rooms had basically become mini-jungles in our absence. They also had to hike the landslide to help us clean so I was just extremely blessed by their help and sacrifice. Matt Schneider’s visit was a very encouraging time for us and we were able to contract someone to do the tractor work. After Matt Schneider left we had a couple of weeks of cutting, clearing, and burning as much wood debris as possible so that the amount of biodegradable material being packed into our road by the tractor work was minimized. We hired some workers to help with this as we had a lot of wood to clear! Our driveway was finally finished and back open the week before Christmas.

December was a hard month being away from family. We were so blessed that Albert (Carmen’s son) and his wife Julissa had been inviting us over often to spend time with them and their family. We had plans to spend Christmas with them as well as Albert Sr. and Carmen at our house; words cannot express how excited I was for this! Unfortunately, I got sick days before, very sick, and we had to cancel. I ended up with a strong bacterial infection in my intestines, which took weeks to recover from. Only a few months before this I had been treated for a urinary tract infection; we have been becoming close friends with our Dr. here.

With the new year, Matt and I traveled to Panama once again to renew our visas. We took a shuttle-van ride across the border and took a water taxi to a little Island called, “Bocas Del Toro.” I was eagerly looking forward to a break from all the hardships we had been facing, ready to relax on a beautiful Caribbean beach. Sadly, poor Matt contracted the same bacterial infection I had and started his symptoms the very first day we arrived. Thankfully, we knew what he had right away and our host was able to get us to a hospital where Matt received all the medicines he needed to get him on the track to recovery. It also rained the entire time we were there, so we were grateful we were not really missing out on anything by living in our hotel room the entire trip. We have been back in Costa Rica for about two weeks now and Matt seems to have fully recovered. We had our first Bible study back in the church building this past Wednesday and it was such an incredible blessing. We are very excited and encouraged that we can begin to resume our regular ministries at the building.

Two days before our Panama trip, our truck died, like really just completely stopped working while Matt was driving home. He had to walk into to town to find a phone to use to get help. He was able to arrange to get the truck towed to a repair shop. Upon returning home, Matt explained to me the “tow” involved himself and the mechanic’s wife sitting on the hood of the mechanic’s Jeep as he pulled our truck to town because it was too heavy for the “tow truck,” a.k.a. the mechanics Jeep. I couldn’t stop laughing as I pictured this scene and truly wish we had a picture of it to show you all. We finally received the call that our truck was ready to be picked up yesterday, sadly it was still having some issues on the drive home. We will be taking it back to the shop tomorrow. We are hoping and praying that this time the fix will be done and we can take our truck the same day as mountain life with no vehicle is a little difficult.

Our water has been another challenge for us. Our water comes from a river far, far, far up the mountain via a hose and gravity. Over the years this hose has been repaired and connected in many places and in many creative ways. We often have had to hike along our entire hose line through the jungle to find which connection has come apart or been clogged by debris or crabs. (Yes crabs!) Tired of this practice, in December we bought a bunch of connectors made for our hose and replaced all the make shift repairs with them. The water flow hasn’t stopped since! Our second water issue has been water cleanliness. As our water comes from the river and is untreated, we rely on a water filter to make it safe for us to drink. With both Matt and I getting bacterial infections this year, we’ve discovered that our filter isn’t as great as we thought it was. We have been using bottled water and boiling our water since then. Thankfully, Calvary Placerville is sending down a higher quality filter that is supposed to take care of those nasty bacterias.

An update on our residency: for the time being we are no longer pursuing our residency and will continue to make trips every 3 months to renew our visas. There was a miscommunication about the kind of notorizations we needed for our documents which we acquired during our visit to the States. We don’t have plans to visit the States again until September so we are at an impasse for now.

These past few months have been some of the most trying for me; I think it has been the cause of the silent months on our blog. It seemed all our news was “bad news,” and I have been unsure of how to share without presenting a “poor us” attitude. Kudos to those of you have endured through this update! There have been many days recently that I have been ready give up; thankfully, Matt is stronger than me and keeps encouraging me to give it another try tomorrow. I feel God has been teaching me mostly about faith, worship, and joy. While our days have been filled with many trials, inconveniences, and disappointments it has been a constant challenge and reminder to us to evaluate where our hope and expectations are actually being placed; am I placing my hope on things going well to my expectations, or am I placing them on God to be working good as He sees fit? Of course we desire the second but it often requires faith and trust; faith and trust in God that He is indeed working good and He has a much better perspective than I do. In response to my prayers to increase in my faith and trust, I have felt the Lord nudging me more towards a heart and attitude of worship. Just like Peter was able to walk on the water as long as his eyes were fixed on Jesus so will we be able to rise above our trials if our eyes are likewise fixed on Jesus. Worship is a practical way of setting our gaze upon the one who is faithful. The words in our worship songs, in scripture, and in our speech are all reminders of what is true about God, us, and our circumstances when it is difficult to see from our perspective. Not that this has been easy! It amazes me how easily words can flow as we talk about an idea, but the truth is that every time it comes to practicing this, I have to choose to worship when I don’t necessarily feel like it or even believe that God is working good. The change comes after the decision to worship has been made; he refreshes my thoughts, attitude, and faith.

We hope that you are encouraged from our post. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support. We look forward to seeing many of you who plan to come and visit and serve this year! Hebrews 11:6, “and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

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Christmas in Downtown San Jose

Along For the Ride

Another month has seemingly flown by as we continue to live and serve here on the mountain. We have allot to share with you, so I’m just going to dive right in!

Agustin and Nela were able to take a short vacation and visit the beach. During this time we had the pleasure of caring for their two dogs. We also had the opportunity to plan and lead study on our own. We all did worship together then Matt took the kids as I facilitated the adult study. I was so blessed to have all women that evening and we enjoyed a meaningful time connecting with our Lord and one another through His word, prayer, and fellowship.

When the youth team came in January, they brought us a projector that we could use for worship slides and Bible studies. We finally pulled it out and got it set up using one of the computers that Jamir brought down in April. We still need to find one more cable to be able to use it for the worship word projection, but we were able to use it for a movie night on the big screen! I was so excited to find that the movie “The Prince of Egypt” was available to watch in Spanish. The kids and adults who come to Bible study enjoyed the movie and even asked some questions about the Biblical story of Moses. Of course no movie night on the big screen is complete without popcorn and refreshments, so we were all able to enjoy them together.

Our tomatoes plants and corn that we planted in May are finally starting to produce fruit! Matt has been busy working the landscape and planting other fruits and veggies on the property as well. The latest addition are two avocado trees on the mountainside behind the church building.

We have also been able to continue our Saturday afternoons offering help to the kids with their schoolwork. Agustin helps them with math and spelling while Matt and I help with English. We have been able to use the English computer program during this time as well. I also use this time to continue guitar and music lessons with Ashley. We also have Bible study on Saturday evenings, so Saturday is really enjoyable extended time with the kids.

One of the things we love most about being in Costa Rica are the opportunities we get to build friendships with the people here on the mountain. Cali has been helping us with some road maintenance on our driveway and has also been available to help us solve a water flow issue more than once. We found out that our water line is actually getting clogged with little crabs up at the source! We had no idea that crabs could live so far from the coast and on a mountain no less. I have had the opportunity to spend a little time with Cali’s girlfriend Elizabeth and Cali treated both Matt and I to a horseback ride on “Tonka” his very lovable horse. Matt was also able to help our neighbor Juan move some furniture from the city with our handy-dandy truck. Juan speaks quite a bit of English so Matt really enjoys his time and conversations with him.

Speaking of our handy-dandy truck, we are very grateful for God’s continual protection over us as we drive here. One day while Matt was driving into Aserri with Agustin and Eduardo the brakes started to fail due to a bad seal on our brake fluid pump! As our truck has a manual transmission, Matt was thankfully able to use the gears to slow them down safely and get it to our repair man to be fixed. We’re grateful for your prayers for us in all things as we continue to live and minister here.

We have continued to settle into our little home and work on projects here and there. We decided that now we are more settled, it was definitely time we treated one another to a date night out. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant called Ram Luna. We went on the same night that they host a buffet and live entertainment as a large tourist attraction. The food was all typical Costa Rican food, the waiters were charming, they had live traditional music, and live traditional dance. We had so much fun enjoying the cultural highlights they provided. They also had a fire pit outside where we could enjoy a view of the city lights down bellow.

We have started attending a church in Jorco and have begun to really enjoy our Sundays. We hope to host a youth camp with this church at the property in December and would appreciate your prayers in the planning. After Sunday service we like to go to an organic cafe and enjoy some delicious Costa Rican coffee as a treat.

We really look forward to visiting in October and are grateful for your continued prayers for us and everyone here in Costa Rica.

“Roughly Smooth” -A quote by Matt Smith

It has been TWO whole months since I put out our last blog post, so I think it is safe to say I missed the window of opportunity for the June update! As always, so much has happened: My parents came for a visit, the long task of finishing our floors has been completed (Hooray!), our house is nearly completely sealed (Yay!), the dryer is fully installed and operational(Yes!), we have a hot water heater(Awesme!), our garden is happy and growing, we renewed our visas by traveling to Panama for a week, we've encountered lots more wildlife, cleaned our water tank, had the truck worked on several times, and we have continued to be blessed by opportunities that the Lord brings us to minister and serve.

I will start with my parents visit; it was so good to see them! We spent 3 of the days visiting Manuel Antonio Park which is located about 3 hours South of us. We saw lots of fun wildlife, swam at an amazing beach, walked allot, and ate allot! The highlight of our visit was seeing a sloth up close and personal for about 15 minutes! He was climbing across a patch of trees and vines working his way down to the ground. We couldn't understand why he was putting on such a great show and hanging around for us, but we were later told that sloths only come down to the ground when they have to poo: an event that happens only once every EIGHT days! They also do this deed at the base of the same tree every time. I realize this sounds funny, but I felt so blessed that we happened to be walking by at the very moment he "needed to go," not for the poo aspect but for the amount of time we got to see him in action. Not too long after this event, Matt and Agustin saw a big sloth here on the mountain traveling along the telephone wire; we were so happy to know that the sloths live near us too. Not only did we have a great time just visiting with my parents, we also put them work. Mom nearly finished sealing up the inside of our house with silicone which is a project we have been working on since we arrived. Dad attached some outriggers on our roof to hold the flashing down; before the flashing was just free flying and would make a crazy racket with the wind. He also attached our corner siding and bought and installed a hot water heater in our home! We have been trying to get an electric shower-head-heater to work with our set up since October, and after frying a few more, Dad decided to bless us with hot water in our whole house by installing a hot water heater. We have been doing allot of work on our house and both of our parents visits really gave us a boost on the home-work and in our spirits too. ❤

Because we only had home-made ladders, Dad had to get creative to get the job done! He bought us an extension ladder before the end 😉

 We also traveled to Panama for our last visa renewal, which turned out to be an awesome trip for us. It seemed that God had so many divine appointments for us as we encountered many believers during our travels. We first met a group of Costa Rican missionaries on our plane flight heading to Panama to do a week of ministry there. We were able to get their contact info to maybe meet up in Costa Rica later. Our first taxi cab driver was listening to a Spanish worship song that I recognized and I said, "Hey! I know this song!" He replied that it was from the church and a conversation about church naturally flowed from there. After learning that he believed in Jesus, Matt asked what the hardships for the people of Panama are and what was heavy on his heart to pray for. Not only did he share about the people in general but he opened up about what his struggles are and we were able to pray for and encourage him. With our second taxi cab driver almost the exact same thing happened resulting in great conversation as well as prayer and encouragement. Matt asked him if many people are Christians in Panama since we had met so many. He replied that no, not many people are Christians at all. We were really greatfull that God had brought so many believers into our path. Later that evening Matt stayed up talking with the host where we were staying; Matt then told me that our host is a Christian as well! Not only did we find fellowship on our trip, we also really enjoyed the sites and the relaxation. Our trip to Panama was refreshing in so many ways.

A boat going through the Miraflores locks at the Panama CanalIn front of our hostelold town

With our bumpy roads we have had to repair our truck quite a few times. Thankfully it has all been very affordable as labor is inexpensive here. The time for the Riteve on our truck was also due (Riteve is like our smog and registration but with a few more requirements) so after failing on our first try, we had to have a couple of things worked on. After our second attempt we passed! We are so grateful to have that done and only have to try twice. Many things seem to have this same process for us here; we are always certain that there will be some sort of road block, but eventually it usually all works out in the end. Matt's description of this phenomenon is, "roughly smooth." This description really fits so many of our daily circumstances and projects; I especially like it because it makes me laugh as well as be grateful for the part that is going smoothly.

With all of the work we have been doing on our home, we hadn't really been able to officially move in yet. This past week we finally got to a stage where we could truly begin to make it our home! While there is still work to be done, the things that are left don't have to be done now and for the most part can be done around our things. It has only been a few days, but we already really notice how nice it is to have a home where we can relax apart from the building where we minister at. It is truly great!

Finishing the floors was a HUGE milestone and celebration for us

Matt has had many more opportunities to minister to people through service. His relationships have been growing with the people he helps. He is also learning more Spanish every day. Sometimes Matt talks in his sleep; two nights ago he was saying everything once in English and then in Spanish! I was so excited to hear this as it is a sign that he is learning allot. Matt has also begun to play games with the kids during the Bible studies 1-2 times a month. This has been helpful to me for rest, but also going forward so that I can be involved in the adult study and fellowship sometimes. He started filling in for me when I had a migraine, but we've also realized that through this I could also participate with the adults. A prayer request for me is that my migraines would become less debilitating and that I would be diligent to do everything I can to help prevent them.

We also have some exciting news: for our next visa renewal in October we will be visiting home (California)! We are very excited to see friends and family on this visit. This trip will also enable us to acquire our police reports (something that needs to be applied for in person) so that we can move forward with our non-residency. Non-residency is basically like an extended visa which would make it so that we did not have to leave every three months to renew our visa. We also hope to get all of our official documents notarized there, which should save us a little bit of money instead of having them notarized in Costa Rica at the US embassy. We hope you enjoy the update and pictures! We love and miss you all!

Visitors, Encouragers, Servants

It amazes me how quickly the days, weeks, and months go by here. This past month has been extremely busy for us! We had our very first visitors since the team that brought us in January; first we had the pleasure of hosting Jamir from Calvary Chapel Placerville, followed up immediately by Matt’s parents. We also celebrated Matt’s 32nd birthday, bought a dryer, and broke the right front shock absorber on our truck!

God is so faithful to provide for His work through His body of believers. He obviously can do anything and doesn’t necisarily require us, however, He chooses to involve us because of His love. We were so encouraged to hear from Jamir how God has been blessing him abundantly in his life. He also shared with us that when Matthew and I first left Placerville and shared with the church, God laid on his heart to help find computers for the ministry here. Shortly after a post on Facebook, he had 3 computers donated and ready to be brought to Costa Rica for ministry! He booked his travel and packed his bags full of computers, accessories, and cables. In the span of 5 days, he and Matt were able to build a table for the computers, connect them to the internet, download some English and typing programs, and set us up with internet in our home! They also found time to change the oil on the truck, build a desk for our home computer, and we even played some settlers of Catan, disc golf and soccer. We also thoroughly enjoyed fellowshipping, worshiping, and spending time in God’s word together. We were constantly reminded of God’s provision, faithfulness, and goodness throughout our week spent with Jamir. We are grateful to God for placing such a heart to serve and love inside our brother, and for his willingness to trust and obey His calling. 🙂

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The same day we dropped Jamir off at the airport, we picked up Matt’s parents. The bridge on one of the main freeways we drive was closed, so Agustin helped us to find an alternative route to the airport. While we were a little nervous navigating a new route, we were grateful to learn some more roads in the area. While they were here, we celebrated Matt’s 32nd birthday with yummy food, dessserts, and presents. Matt and his dad were also able to do some electrical work in the house setting up some different outlets. They were able to get some outlets on the outside of our house so it is much easier for Matt to plug in his power tools now. We also planted some seeds to start our garden, and made some planters out of tree logs. We made sure they got to enjoy the surrounding beauty, meet our friends, and try typical Costa Rican food. This week they are continuing to explore the rest of Costa Rica; we can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

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The weather has been beginning to change as we approach the rainy season here in Costa Rica. After it took me 4 days to get our laundry half-way dry, we decided it was time to invest in a dryer. We first bought an electric dryer thinking that would be the best fit for us. We soon discovered after getting it home that we aren’t even supplied with enough electricity to run the thing (Ha ha!) so we brought it back to exchange it for a gas dryer. After about 4 days, we finally had the exchange worked out and we were able to pick up our new gas dryer. This situation with the dryer was a perfect example of how everything here takes time; everything. We try our hardest to do our research and confirm that we have what we need in our trips to town, but almost every time something is either unavailable, or we get home to realize it in fact is not all that we need or even what we need! We still need to purchase a different type of exhaust tube for our dryer before we can get it up and running, but I have hopes of using it soon.

We love our truck; everyday that we drive it, we are so glad we chose the vehicle we did. Especially now that the roads are becoming so muddy in addition to their bumpiness. Speaking of bumpiness, we discovered that we busted our front passenger side shock absorber. Thank fully we were able to get the correct parts after about 5 days (and of course getting the wrong part first!) and our mechanic Jeffery installed it as well as some new bearings and other routine work for a total of just $80! We had also needed to get our exhaust pipe welded back on a couple months ago (it had rusted it’s way off!) and that only cost about $10 dollars to have done. We are very happy that mechanic labor is much more affordable here, especially with owning such an older vehicle. It must be one of the reasons vehicles last so much longer and retain their value here; it is worth it to keep the vehicle and repair it as opposed to invest in a new one before the repairs are more than the vehicles worth.

We discovered that our post box doesn’t actually exist; long story short, we need to bring in our receipt and hopefully we can get a new one! We also met with our lawyer and he has a better plan for our residency application. We are so grateful and full of peace for the route we are taking. First we will apply for non-residency, which should grant us about 3 years of permission to stay and do missions work here. This can be acquired more quickly than residency, giving us time to be here as we apply for and wait for residency. Our financial income requirements also wont be as much as we thought they were going to be, so we are very relieved. Please continue to keep the whole process in your prayers.

Guitar classes and Bible studies continue on a weekly basis as does our work on the house and property. The kids are always a blessing and the guitar students are coming along in their skills. Our relationships continue to grow as more doors to share Christ’s love are opened. It is hard to wait for the finished product with our more long-term projects, but we have been given our encouragement to work each day in Christ through His word and body. We really enjoyed having help when jamir came and we look forward to more individuals and teams coming in the future. It is good to remember that we are not alone and that the work and vision is God’s; we just get to do what He allows us to and the rest is not a cause for worry or discouragement; it will be seen through by Him.

At the Feet of Jesus

It is difficult to believe that a whole month has already passed since the purchase of our truck and our last blog update. A lot has happened since then!

I will start with our trip to Nicaragua. We initially came to Costa Rica with the intent of applying for temporary residency by the time our tourist visa ran out. Well, like most things here, it’s a complicated and time consuming process! Anyways, the time for our tourist visa was up and we were in need of a trip to be able to re-enter the country and receive another 90 days of permission to reside in the country. We chose Nicaragua, as it was a short shuttle van ride away. It only took us about 6 hrs travel time each way. We were a little nervous about the border crossings and really had no desire to leave our Costa Rican mountain home, but we knew we had to go. We were so happy we elected to travel with the tourist shuttle van; crossing into Nicaragua was fairly easy and it was a comfort knowing we had other travelers with us. We were surprised at how many fees and stops there were in order to cross the border! First was the exit fee to leave Costa Rica and get an exit stamp. The second  stop included a stamp to enter Nicaragua along with two more fees.  Then as we drove out of the border area we had 3 more stops for passport checks! Matt joked at the passport check stops, “now here is where we pay $100, and here is where we pay $200.” Thankfully we were done with the fees at that point. When we reserved our hostel, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t actually located in the city we had booked travel to, but rather about 20 minutes outside. We easily acquired a taxi, however overpriced by at least 3x what we should have paid, we were just grateful we had arrived. I spent the next few days battling the frustration of having paid too much, but was eventually able to find the grace to let it go.

Our hostel was located right at a very secluded beach and it was beautiful! We spent most of our days playing in the cool waves or hiding in our somewhat air-conditioned room as the temperature was over 100° F! We were so miserably hot in comparison to our cool mountain weather. We did manage to squeeze in some adventures though! First was a couple of rounds of disc golf at the only disc golf course in Nicaragua, which just happened to be a 10 minute walk from where we were staying in the middle of no-where. Later that week we returned there for some delicious pizza! We also took a day to travel into the town of San Juan Del Sur where we immediately began to regret our decision. Not only was it incredibly hot, the power was out for some routine line maintenance. Within the first few minutes of being there we were having some difficulties with an ATM, followed by a very angry American yelling at us. I wished I could just hide back in our room that was now a bumpy 25 minute shuttle ride away. While feeling defeated by the heat, ATM, and a grumpy tourist, we pondered what on earth we could do to salvage this experience. We looked up to Jesus- literally. In San Juan Del Sur sits a giant 23 meter statue of Jesus. We decided that was what we were going to do: hike to Jesus, despite the over 100° weather and escape the less-than-great experience we were currently having. It was so funny to be asking people, “do you know how to get to Jesus?” But be asking for physical directions! 🙂 One extremely hot and steep hike later, we were there! It was so refreshing to feel the breeze and see the beauty from up high. I loved the parallel our experience made to everyday trials. There is always refreshment and perspective waiting for us at the feet of Jesus. With our spirits rejuvenated, we returned to the city and enjoyed a delicious meal at a beach restaurant, bought a pretty hand-crafted picture for our home, and rode our economical shuttle back. The shuttle was about 1/8 of the price we had spent on our taxi earlier in the week! We met some nice people from Australia on the shuttle and enjoyed our visit with them very much.

The return trip to Costa Rica began for us at 5:20 am and we were eager to get back. We went through a similar process in crossing the border, only this time we were held up by a man who was seemingly stuck between the two borders; he was on the phone with the U.S. Marines demanding a rescue op. While one guard was preoccupied by this scene, another window opened; all the people in line behind us quickly seized their opportunity to pass us smiling at us as they did! We were all taken aback at this line cutting but eventually were able to stop the flow and get into the new line. One of our travel companions from Spain spent the whole next hour re-telling the story of the upset phone man and the line cutters to our driver over and over again. It provided great entertainment as we made our way through the various passport check points. While our trip was miserably hot, we were grateful for the contrast it provided to our new mountain life; we are so blessed to be able to call Costa Rica “home,” and are so grateful to be back here with a fresh 90 days of Costa Rican Opportunity.

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Tomorrow we hope to finally meet up with our lawyer to officially begin our residency process! We are very excited and would be grateful for your prayers. Earlier this month I chatted with an old friend from Bible college who had applied for Costa Rican residency in the past, but was denied. Before this conversation it hadn’t even occurred to me that we could go through this long process and be denied! My friend also mentioned that it was God opening and closing doors for he and his wife and he knew that God was leading them to the US at that point. It was a very needed reminder that even though the thought of rejection hadn’t occurred to me before, it was not a reason to panic. God is control of and over everything; He is faithful and has His plan. If we are able to acquire residency we will no longer need to leave the country every 90 days. We also will be able to begin our process towards permanent residency and maybe even eventually citizenship. Each of these steps simply make it easier for us to live and minister here.

Speaking of ministering here: Matt has truly been blessed with so many opportunities to simply build relationships and naturally share what God has done in his life with others. Even on our shuttle rides to and from Nicaragua we experienced this blessing of doors being open to share about God through who we are and what we are doing in Costa Rica. Seeing Matt share God’s love with such a natural and overflowing passion is incredible for this blessed wife. Guitar classes have also been going well and have proved to be a great opportunity to continue building relationships and share Christ’s love. I am also teaching a young girl from our Bible study separate guitar lessons and I am filled with joy when I think about the possibilities of what God may have for her in the future.

I have been praying for inspiration for ideas for the children’s bible classes for a while now. Yesterday we had Bible study here, and I hadn’t found time to prepare until that morning. As I logged onto the site I usually get the curriculum from, I was thrown into panic mode as I realized the Spanish translated worksheets had run out! I hadn’t even realized before that only a certain number of the teachings had these Spanish resources. While praying and worrying about what I was going to do for the class that evening, I found another location on the same site for an older curriculum. Not only were all of these lessons available with Spanish resources, they also included a teachers guide complete with activities and crafts throughout the lessons! This was such an immediate and long-term answer to my prayers. The class that evening went so well; the kids were engaged throughout the study and remembered all the answers to my follow-up questions in the end. God is good and faithful to provide for His little ones, and big ones too 😉 .

Thank you so much for continued prayers and encouragement from home. We are very aware of God’s movement in and provision for our lives daily here. He is so faithful to teach us, fill us, direct us, convict us, and strengthen us.

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And Now! The Moment You’ve All Been Praying For…

Well, Maybe not ALL 😉 But it is certainly a very exciting moment that Matt and I have been both praying and waiting for! WE BOUGHT A CAR YESTERDAY! Ok, so it’s actually a TRUCK. 🙂 We woke up in the morning at 5am (with the snooze button it was more like 5:20am.) We began our hike to Agustin’s house as we thought about a vehicle we had looked up online and called about the night before. Our friend Eduardo also joined us at Agustin’s and we all made the trip to the town closest to us: Aserri. Agustin was having some work done on his car by our new mechanic Jeffrey. Matt had met him last week through Agustin and he agreed to help us find a good vehicle! We LOVE Jeffrey! By the time we began looking at trucks Matt and I already knew we did not want the car we had planned on seeing. First we asked Jeffery about a truck we had looked at on the road to his house. The truck looked beautiful, had big ‘ol tires, was the model we were looking for, and we felt it must have been a sign since it was on our path. We are so grateful we had him to steer us away from this truck! He explained to us that often times when a vehicle has been lifted higher than it’s original design and given monster tires, there are almost always troubles down the road. He agreed that it looks awesome and powerful, but it really is not a good idea. I remembered a time when one of my brothers bought a lifted monster wheel vehicle and it did not turn out well for him. (Something about a piston shooting through the engine only like a week after he bought it, yikes!) Thanks to the advice of our friend and the memory of my older brother’s experience, we agreed to look at some different options. Jeffrey not only knows about cars, he also knows where to find them. We went to a dealer nearby who had 3 options that fit exactly what we were looking for. One clearly stood out and Jeffrey went along for a ride with us and the seller as he listened to and inspected everything on the car. With his review of the car we were certain that this was exactly the car we wanted. After some price negotiation done by our very own Agustin, a trip to the lawyer’s office, a visit to our Costa Rican Bank, and finally a return journey back to the vehicle we are the new official owners of a Toyota Hilux in Costa Rica! We want to say thank you to everyone who has been praying specifically for this, even before we left the the states. The experience was surprisingly low stress from what I was expecting, and even though there were many lengthy steps involved, we were so happy to have the peace of God and the help of our friends. The wildest part of the whole experience was our trip to the bank. Up until today we have not needed to take out a large amount of cash from our account; today we saw a whole new world! First we got a ticket and waited for our number to be called. We then went to a booth where we picked up a telephone and did our entire transaction through a two-way camera and one of those awesome mail-tube-vacuums! As if this wasn’t enough of an experience, we have also never had the privilege of feeling like millionaires. While it wasn’t in dollars 4,600,000 colones sure feels like millions of dollars! I think we could actually see ourselves aging as the poor cashier counted out every last bill to us on the screen and then had to send it to us via 3 different vacuum canisters!

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While we were waiting for Agustin’s car to have work done on it, the four of us walked to a park in Aserri. Matt and Agustin had walked to this same park the week before and both times we found divine opportunities waiting for us there. The first time the guys met a group of youth who were practicing their parkour skills and who were very eager to talk with them about God and learning English. This time we met a lady named Cindy who was rescued from a life of 20 years on the streets doing drugs into a life of sharing Jesus with others. We were sitting playing dominoes in the very spot she usually paints kids faces and shares the love of Jesus with people. She considers herself a full time proclaimer of the grace of God and has a heart especially for people who are on the streets. We also met two pastors and a young lady who were also at the park that day to share the news of Jesus’ love. We were so encouraged and were able to obtain contact information for each of our new friends. It was also a great time spending the day with Eduardo and building our friendship with him.20170308_084833

One evening last week we had dinner and coffee at our friend George’s house. many of our other friends were also there. It was quite the gathering! We had a great time visiting with his family and friends as well as seeing their beautiful home and landscaping/gardening. One of the friend’s family own’s a restaurant on the mountain and she is very interested in learning English as well as guitar. In fact, two of the others who were there that night also want to learn guitar! Yesterday George called me and said they were all ready to start lessons so we picked Tuesdays at 4 to have guitar class! I love that they were so inspired to organize among themselves and call to arrange a time. I have been spending a lot of time since then figuring out how I am going to teach guitar now! I have found some neat resources online that teach guitar in Spanish, but I could definitely use prayer! They use different note names in most Latin and Central American cultures than in the US so I have had my fair amount of studying going on! Instead of CDEFGAB, I am now learning to use DoReMiFaSolLaSi. Eduardo will also be coming to class, and possibly one other young girl who has started learning a little guitar after bible studies.

The restaurant that our friend’s family owns is not currently running, but hey have a sugar cane mill that is! Matt was invited to come help with the sugar cane processing one morning! First they run the sugar cane stocks through the grinder, then the juice is mixed with a certain kind of tree bark resin that helps to draw any impurities out of the juice. That then travels down a pipe into a great big boiler with a fire underneath. The stove is built down in the floor and they feed the fire mainly with dried sugar cane stocks from the previous crop. While the sugar cane boils and caramelizes, they quickly put their hand in the boiling mixture and then rush to put their hand into water to be able to feel when it has reached the correct consistency without getting burned. Yes, Matt tried this too, but not with quite as much success as the pros. 😉 After it is heated, the boiling sugar cane is poured into a trough where it can be stirred and cooled slightly before being poured into wooden molds. After it hardens, the molds are flipped upside down and out pop “tapa de dulce!” Throughout the process Matt was given samples of the sugar cane to taste, he had it raw, he had it in juice, he had it while boiling, and he had two tastes of it while it was hardening. I never thought I would hear Matt say he had eaten too much sugar, but this was a day for the record books. He didn’t want anything sweet at all for an entire day!

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We moved back into our house about a week ago after we finished sealing our bedroom. It has been so nice to be staying over there; I already feel more settled in. Matt made us a headboard for our bed-frame which I think is amazing. I was surprised at what a difference a head board and a warm room makes to my sleep quality. Bellow is a picture of our hand-crafted head board; I simply couldn’t post this without giving credit to my Grandma Barbara Norman for her beautiful quilt skills. 😉 The first few nights we would have a rousing-round of cockroach hunting with a shop vac, ladder, and sticks before bed time, but with our more frequent presence and the cockroach poison the bugs are thankfully giving our home back over to us. I am really glad the bugs seem to be dissipating; I wasn’t sure how much more of that adrenaline-skin-crawling feeling I could take. 😉 I thought I had learned my lesson about shaking out my clothes before getting dressed on a trip a few years ago when, to my horror, a cockroach started wiggling in my jeans while I was wearing them, but some things slip your mind when you’re doing routine tasks. I had just gotten dressed when a spider about the size of a fifty-cent piece fell out the bottom of my shorts! My skin is still crawling now as I remember it!

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We also had the opportunity to see a mountain coati up close. Matt had seen a whole pack of them about a month ago. They were making all sorts of grunting noises and Matt was left to imagine what kind of snarling beast was about to appear out of the trees to eat him. Well when he did see their dim outlines and realized they were fuzzy little creatures we promptly looked up what they could be. Even though they are fuzzy, we read they can still be vicious, similar to a raccoon. Since then I have been hoping to at least see one of the cute creatures. We were washing dishes one day when something pretty loud hit the side of the building. This was followed by some grunting and rustling sounds. We both cautiously peered out the kitchen window trying to see without opening the door what was out there. we finally spotted the fuzzy little guy and I quickly ran to grab the camera. He was foraging on the hillside for goodies when he pushed a rock down the hill that hit the building. I am so glad he did; we were able to watch him for a about 5 minutes before we ventured to get a better look outside and we scared him away. They usually travel in groups so I was surprised he was all alone, but we were grateful for the visit.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers. We would love prayer for the music class, the weekly Bible studies, safety while working on projects here and with neighbors, rich Jesus time, how to begin English classes with those who are asking, and continued growth in our relationships. We desire that everything we do would be a reflection of God’s love and that we would take the opportunities to share His truth unhindered. We also know we are so lame at doing this with out Him; please pray that we would constantly recognize our need for Him to be doing the work. Matt will also be learning to better his Manual driving skills so prayer for safety and success. Finally, please keep the continued residency process lifted up, as well as a small trip to Nicaragua to renew our visas at the end of this month.

We Wanna Be Like John

Well it has been nearly a month since our last update, and nearly two months since our arrival in Costa Rica! We cannot believe how quickly time has been going by. We have been as blessed and as busy as ever.
I had mentioned our need to get a Costa Rican bank account and the difficulties we were having in our last post. Well after three weeks we finally got an account! And one week after that we were finally able to put money in it too! During the bulk of the bank account saga I was sick with the flu, so Matt was having to make a lot of trips to town sans-wife. I was having to release my desire to control things and get things done as I recovered from the never-ending flu bug. While I was examining the back of my eye lids and stretching the amount of time between swallows to the max, Matt was walking around on the mountain helping some of the men with their work and building relationships. I was so impressed with his outgoing nature and ability to communicate without a common language. He has been learning a lot of vocabulary and has even started recognizing words when people are talking.
After about two weeks of being down, I was extremely happy to be able to start doing things again! We have put a lot of work into our little home. We are nearly finished sealing our rooms walls, corners, roof, and floor boards. I also took my first trip off the mountain in 3 weeks this past week! What a relief to be able to run errands! Here is Matt making some small wood slats to help fill our floor boards, and I’m gluing and nailing down ropes on each of the cracks on the wall.


Now that we have money in a Costa Rican account, we can start shopping for a vehicle. Please pray that we find the best car for us! That it would run well and fit our various needs. Also that the process would be fairly simple and that we can easily acquire the different required papers that come along with owning a car in Costa Rica.
We have continued to have Bible study with the adults and kids here at the building. We really love this time. We have also been getting to know a couple of new families on the mountain and we have been super blessed by their friendship. God is continually opening doors for us to talk about spiritual matters; in two situations they have actually been the ones to bring it up! Several people have expressed a strong desire to learn English and a few the desire to learn music. We have been praying A LOT about how we might fill these needs and share God’s love with them. We have a few different ideas that we will hopefully see begin to materialize in the next few months. Here is one of our neighbors and Matt cutting down a tree that had fallen and was hanging over our patio roof. Our friend just climbed up the tree and started hacking with his machete and cutting with his chainsaw, as Matt helped to push the pieces away from our house!


The more we have spent time in prayer and seen the different needs and ministry possibilities, the more we realize our limitations as just two people. We have been very encouraged as we read in John chapter one about the ministry of John the Baptist. No, we haven’t started eating the giant grasshoppers with our honey, but we have been inspired in other ways. The Pharisees had sent people to question John about who he was and why he was baptizing people. Each time John responds he doesn’t claim any title but simply proclaims his purpose as a forerunner for the Messiah and continues to proclaim the worthiness of Him he was preparing the way for. He also doesn’t get caught up in their questions about baptism but proclaims how the messiah’s baptism will be greater. We took a couple things away from this in application; first, we don’t want to become too worried about what specific roles we are filling but rather concern ourselves with THE role of preparing the way for Christ to touch the peoples hearts. Second, we want the same sort of humility shown in and dedication he had to His one calling of proclaiming Christ. Another awesome truth from the life of John the Bible gives us is that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. His life and ministry was anointed, blessed, and led by God. We definitely want to seek that though prayer and dependence on Him.
Another prayer request we have is for our temporary residency. We are still waiting to file for this until we have one more needed paper. Once we file, however, it will be some time before the government begins processing it. Until this occurs, we still need to leave every 90 days to renew our tourist visa. We have begun researching some places in Nicaragua we could stay for a few days at the end of march. Please pray that God would lead us when and where to go.
I had mentioned the wind was getting better in our last update. Well it was a false alarm! We had a few calm days and then a couple more weeks of intense wind! We now have had a full week of no wind, so we are hopeful it has actually passed this time. As the weather warms up a bit, we have become acquainted and cozy with more than a few lizards coming inside to visit us. Matt is holding a little guy here; our Spanish speaking friend just handed it to Matt so he felt he had to take it! Lizards are probably the thing Matt is most afraid of, so this was a big deal! Haha. The other guy I found in the sink one morning when I went to wash my hands. Many others have been scurrying across the floors and walls trying their best to play a game of “scare the humans.”

 


We love and miss you all! Until our next update ❤