Stolen Hearts

Going to take a little commercial break from my JMT posts. Just brief, I’ll be back at it in no time.

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Sunset at Playa Tamarindo

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Leaving Spokane for some SUN

We are back in Costa Rica now. Possibly our most favorite place on the planet. We started coming down here in 2007. Our first trip, all three kids in tow, changed us. Changed us in ways we never thought possible. G stayed 8 days before having to head back to the States. Our kiddos and I stayed a month. That sealed the deal, we were so taken by this beautiful and diverse country. So overcome with the climate, the people, the oh-so-chill atmosphere, that I honestly had a hard time coming back to the States after our month stint. I couldn’t even talk to friends and family about our time here because I was so emotional about the whole thing. This country captivated me and stole a piece of my heart that I knew I could never get back. Tears would flow as I spoke about my adoration of this place and felt that gut-pull of wanting to come back.

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At the Saturday feria. Photo credit to our sweet soon-to-be daughter in law.

Forward to now; this is our sixth time to this country. It feels like home to us. We feel its ebb and flow in our heart like the swells of the ocean. We catch our grove quickly after arriving. We eat typico, we never miss a sunset, we shop as locals at the feria every Saturday. We walk everywhere, eat fresh, and try desperately to brush up on our Espanol. Living in Idaho doesn’t allow for a lot of language practice. I have learned to watch TV (when we do) in Spanish and read everything I can in Espanol. It comes back quickly, thank goodness. There is nothing better than conversing with Ticos. They are some of the warmest people we’ve encountered. They have infectious smiles and even more contagious laughs. They never miss an opportunity to show their warmth towards us!

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Pura Vida

Speaking of Ticos, we just love learning from them. The language and their way of life and love are so simple. They live frugally compared to US standards but you’d never know it. They don’t seem too bothered or interested in making it big. They are humble and helpful to everyone around them. They DO work hard for what they have and they come home happy with what the day has allowed them. They have such pride in what they have, not boastful, but content with their life. They are sweet and genuine and love their families fully. They aren’t over-busy or over-stressed. Every day is full of Pure Vida.

img_0847This time we have decided to stay in Playa Tamarindo. We have been here before a few years ago, but only for a short weekend getaway from Esterillos Oeste. It’s bustling. It’s like the Cancun of Costa Rica. It’s full of gringos and backpackers from all over the world. It’s busy and full of bars and restaurants. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (although I have YET to see a bad one in CR) and it produces some extraordinary sunsets. Its water is warm (like the rest of CR) and it has great waves for all levels of surfing. There are vendors and shops everywhere. It’s very different from what we are used to in CR. Definitely more touristy but so far we are enjoying it. It’s close to the Nicaraguan border. A plus as we are planning to drive to San Juan del Sur and Granada in the next few weeks. I would say for a quick trip to CR it’s a great place. Long term, may be debatable. For us anyways. We are not accustomed to staying in such a crowded place and prefer more of the laid back, quiet villages to over populated, tourist hangs.

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A little SnapChat on the beach because….well, we are just dorks like that AND I laugh hysterically every time I see G’s face in this photo!

As we start our second week here we are definitely getting back into our grove with cooking at home and workouts. We are meeting friends and finding our favorite local shops. Coffee at Nordico is a must after a morning run and surf sesh and as I sit here sipping my cafe con leche I can hear at least 4 different languages being spoken. Incredible!fullsizerender

It’s so nice to be back here. It’s so free and allows us to clear our head of the chaos. It allows me to feel God at a whole new level. To see and taste the goodness of His love every day. To slow down, take a breath and marvel at what is important to us both.To quiet ourselves enough to hear His still small voice. To soak in salt water every day. To be nurtured by the sun. To eat pipa (Pipa fría is fresh chilled green coconut. It’s a perfect refreshment for a hot day – it is loaded with vitamins and gives you an instant burst of energy) and gallo pinto by the truckload! To allow what’s been bankrupt in ourselves to be filled.fullsizerender

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Beauty That Remains

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Building a house is no joke. How about this? Building a house in a third-world country.

My heart still stings when I think, talk and dream about Honduras. Back one week now, tears bite at the corners of my eyes on mention. Little by little I reacclimatize to being home and I get so excited to tell our story.

Actually….God’s story.

We had an incredible team hand-picked by God; a blend of new people, some of whom had never left the country before, let alone on a mission trip and some who are well-traveled veterans. None of us, with the exception of one (I believe) have any real building experience.  Funny how that has never made a difference….. IMG_1068

UnknownGod enters into the scenario. Only through Him do you get a team of men and women to create something wonderful with no experience. He always shows up and always blows my mind. This is who He is.

We arrived on our build site to find 2 foundations poured, side-by-side. This was amazing, as we were really praying for this prior to the trip, so we could share recourses throughout our build time AND not have to split up the team. We made some preparations with our team foreman, and set off on our task of building two transitional homes for families living and working in the trash dump in Tegucigalpa.

We had 3 and a half days to build these houses!

IMG_0928IMG_0863   Building relationships is one of the best things that I love about mission work. Partnering with God, alongside other people; some of whom you’ve never met, to create something; These people become your family. It’s happened with every mission trip I’ve been on. There is nothing like that bond. It lasts and is one of many things that I feel blessed with from these trips.

As the days continued and houses were erected with the help of some amazing Honduran workers I loved watching the process. I loved being in the moment. I wasn’t rushing to get things done; I knew they would be. I wasn’t feeling a sense of urgency; I know everything works in God’s timing. I wasn’t worried we wouldn’t complete the houses; He who sent us, will equip us.  I found myself, several times, standing back and smiling at what was happening around me…..IMG_0848IMG_0830IMG_0780

Laughter between people of two different countries.

Conversations between people that do not speak the same language.

Differences being worked out in respectful ways between two strong-willed men.

IMG_0755Women learning how to use tools that I’m sure they’ve never used or possibly seen before.

Children shyly making eyes contact with us.

The young boys in the neighborhood who were always right there to help lift lumber and our spirits.

All of us bettering our Spanish language.

Learning new things everyday from our translators. (Some not so great…hello Chinche bug)

Women caring for one another when one of us fell ill.IMG_0710

The compassion we had for the ones that had to stay back at the hotel for sick days.

Making jokes with one another.

Laughter.

IMG_0912Dogs barking.

Turkeys gobbling.IMG_0706

So. Many. Smiles.

Generosity like I’ve never seen.

How thankful we were for one day’s rain.

Prayers being whispered for the clouds to show up in the sky.

The care everyone took to make sure everyone had a chance to try something new.

Complete selflessness.

IMG_0765Walls of a home being lifted.

Nails being bent and re-nailed to perfection.

Complete surrender and reliance on a God who was preparing the way ahead of us on this trip the entire time we were there.

Softened hearts.

IMG_0915Rooves <roofs> going onto houses.

Children teaching us Spanish.

The strengthening of our hearts.

Playing a simple game of Telephone in English and Spanish that created unbelievable amounts of laughter.IMG_0939

Smashed thumbs and healed hearts.

Fears being released.

Lives being changed.

Family being able to share an amazing experience together.

The love between a mother and son.

A mama trusting me enough to hold her chubby, baby girl.

IMG_0688Hands working together.

Great patience.

God’s love and presence everywhere.

IMG_1004A dad’s love for his sweet daughters.

Tears of joy.

Tired bodies still willing to do something more.

Butterflies.

Beauty in the struggle.

So. Many. Answered. Prayers.

And then….the day came for us to dedicate these houses to the families. This is really the moment we wait for. Meeting the families for the first time. Seeing them coming up the road, quietly, shy and grateful.  Maybe a little overwhelmed. This is where we see a reverse of blessings. The place where we think we are blessing someone, only to find out the blessing is coming right back onto us. To stand and witness a mother and her 3 small kids as she sees her new home for the first time; blessed.  This is the beauty of God.  It’s etched into my mind forever. I think in this moment; THIS, this is why we are here. This is why we have life. This is why we have been blessed beyond belief with the recourses to be here, in this moment. This….does it get any better than this? This is making kingdom differences. This is making world differences. images

As we pray for and dedicate these homes to the families;tears fall.  Our hearts ache with a joy that’s inconceivable to most.  The witnessing of God’s presence everywhere is undeniable and unimaginable.  God’s beauty is thick like a blanket over this place.  His never-ending mercy and grace abounds.  It’s what brought us here and what will continue to bring us here. Amor, Fe, Esperanza.  Love, Faith and Hope…To Him be the glory!

For more about partnering with AFE:http://www.afehonduras.org

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….And We’re Off!

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It’s Friday!  Last minute goodies have been picked up, immunizations (OUCH) have been injected, antibiotics have been picked up!  In 24 short hours we will be boarding a plane for Honduras! Today is packing day!

As this trip has been building so has my anticipation, excitement, and elation.  I am a complete wad of emotion today.  God has a way of doing that to me.  And when you know that this is exactly the will of God, and exactly where you should be beyond a shadow of a doubt…that’s got some power behind it.

I have so much fun talking with people about this trip this past week.   Here are some things I have heard….

“Ya know as American’s we have so much.  But we always want more, always….man, we have so much to be thankful for, and really need nothing more.  We really have NOTHING to complain about, do we?”

So true!

“This is going to give you such a different perspective on life, as you leave the comforts of home (which we often take for granted) and serve in this desperately poverty-stricken area.  You my friend, will never be the same.”

Counting on it!

“Be prayerful about the fact that you may feel a little guilt as you leave your job site everyday, knowing what you are doing for this sweet family (and their current situation)…as you go back to your hotel.”

So true!

“God is going to use you, Greg and your whole team, in such a huge and impactful way.”

So incredibly true!

“You will be so changed by this experience!”

Already have been!

And a quote sent to me by a sweet friend,   “No one grows up hoping someday they’ll be typical. Get back to leading that inexplicable life you were aiming for.”

As I pack, I find myself a little teary-eyed, overflowing with so much thankfulness and joy.  I am grateful that we (our team) are willing to take this incredible leap of faith together.  To reach across geographical and cultural boundaries sharing sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, kindness….humanity.  I am praying…

God may every single thing we do on this trip be for your glory.  May the lives of these Hondurans be forever changed by Your love, care and compassion.  And that we are the best representation of that love and compassion.  Keep our teams safe, healthy and full of endurance for this job.  And Lord, thank you for showing me so long ago, to never, ever,  take anything in my life for granted.

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A Whole Different Kind of “cosmetic bag”

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Hammer, check! Tape measure, check! Work gloves, check! Say what…..??

~Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

~Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  -Hebrews 12:1

“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.” — C.T. Studd