Guest Post: YHWH Leads

Hi everyone!   My name’s Suzanne McDaniel.

I’m a wife to Jesse; we’ve been married a bit over 10 years. And I’ve got 3 adorable kiddos; Brianna is 8, Lorien is 5, and Rohan is 3… and potty trained!  Sorry… recent proud moment (please be kind and don’t point out he’s almost 4).

We live on a homestead in the middle of nowhere on a mountain in Costa Rica.

Two years ago we were living in a nice 2,600 sq. foot house in Waco, TX.

We owned a lot in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Waco and had plans to build our “dream house” there.   However, after we moved to our 2,600 sq. foot house we wondered what in the WORLD we would do with a 4,000 sq foot house?  What were we thinking?   Then we started leaning towards selling our house and our lot and buying an acreage somewhere, so we put our lot up for sale… changing the idea of what our “dream house” would be.

Soon after, YHWH brought about some huge changes in our lives.  One being our faith.   We left a church we had attended since childhood and set out with a new set of beliefs and a new, real faith in YHWH.   In that process, our ideas of what we wanted in a home changed again.   We started to get tired of the lifestyle of having a McDonalds and a Walmart on every corner.   I’d say one day “No more fast food, it’s awful for you, we aren’t doing it ever again.”   One week later, I’m busy in town, I have more to do, the kids are hungry and grouchy… fast food it is.    When it’s SO convenient it’s really hard to give it up.

We were also, to be honest, not super happy with the way the government in the States was headed.  Mandatory health care worried us since we do not vaccinate our children and didn’t do the “well child” visits; some things we started to see about the risk of home schooling in the future, and just random other things.

And then there was the cost.  How do we homestead?   To do that we needed my husband there full time, at the family farm.  But he works full time.   He is self employed and could do some business online but not enough to sustain American prices.   So how do we balance needing us all on a farm if we really wanted to be off grid and self sustaining with needing the funds to do so?

Combine that with a desire to do some mission work and we were soon looking at going to Central America.

We looked at various countries trying to balance the need for low cost of living with low crime rates.   We finally narrowed it down to three:  Belize, Chile, and Costa Rica.   Belize speaks English so that was a HUGE plus.  Also, their residency policy is very easy and cheap.   Chile has a stable economy, and Costa Rica has a stable economy and probably the lowest crime rate.

We ended up counting out Belize for the heat.   It just seemed too hot to be working outside in.   We came from Texas… we wanted a break from that! LOL.   Chile got counted out because of me to be honest.  I’m not sure why but I just didn’t feel settled with that country… it left me on edge and nervous.  Belize did the same for my husband.   Finally we revisited the idea of Costa Rica and it instantly felt “right” to both of us.  So we made our decision.  It was really that simple and unscientific.   It felt right, we had made up our minds.   We decided to move in July of 2010 I believe.  We put our house up for sale in August and quickly started selling/ trashing/ donating 90% of what we owned.   Sure, our house could take (and most likely would in that economy) 2 years to sell, but what happens if it sells in a month and we still had all of our stuff?   So we were soon living in an empty house.

We had decided to move down most of our kitchen goods, our computers, some clothing, some toys, books, and home school gear.  That still took up a LOT of boxes but those were in a nice neat stack in the garage, and the rest of the house was empty.   Our large living room had a piano in it (stupid thing took forever to sell), we ate at a card table, the kids slept on their mattresses on the ground in one room, and we slept on our mattress on the ground in our bedroom.  90% of our house was totally empty.   However, it didn’t take 2 years to sell.   We had a contract in September just a few weeks after putting it on the market.  After having the closing date pushed off and pushed off we were on a plane headed to Costa Rica on Nov. 18th.

We found a nice rental house near Tilaran, Costa Rica (with views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano) and stayed there for a few months.

While living there we realized land in that area was VERY expensive.  So we looked elsewhere and soon found land on the other side of Costa Rica.  A fraction of the price with amazing views come at a cost though.  Things like no roads/ access by horses for example LOL.

For about 3 months my husband and a friend who is living with us traveled down to the land, 8 hours each way and would stay for one week and work.    We decided to build a very small home… a “bodega” and live there while we built our house.   We found a way to put a road in almost to our house but still lack the last 1/4th of a mile of road.  So all building materials, lumber, concrete flooring, etc.. had to be carried by hand over a river and 1/4th of a mile to our building site.  NOT EASY.

They slowly got the bodega built. Well, far enough along that we could move in at least. 🙂    It’s 16×16 feet.   There are 2 families living in it (we host a spanish speaking missionary family who has been a huge blessing to us).  Do the math… not much space.   It does have an upstairs but it includes a small bathroom and the ceiling is less than 6 feet tall in the middle, and then it slopes to the floor.  So you can stand in the direct center of it if you are a shorty like my entire family, but we’ve managed to put all our family’s beds upstairs (well, foam roll out mattresses), and the computer table, 2 shelves for all of our clothing, our shoes, and some storage. 🙂   Under the bodega we put our chicken coop, and are storing all the rest of our belongings under it which clears up a lot of space.

We did have to make some allowances.   We had planned on doing hydro power with a nearby river but that did not work out.  So, in the meantime until we can get our house up and put hopeful solar on the roof, or figure out hydro power in a different area we had to hook up to the local power.  It’s horrible. It’s out at least an hour every day, LOL.  But, it’s power.

The day we moved we packed all day on Thursday.   We didn’t want to move on a Friday as we keep the Sabbath and would have to stop at sunset on Friday afternoon, but it turned out that was the only day the moving truck could make it.  So, we packed all day on Thursday and loaded the truck up on Thursday.  We finally fell asleep at midnight knowing we had to get up at 3 in the morning to head out.   Friday we drove all day long while praying for dry roads as our road up the mountain is not drivable if it’s been raining.

It was dry so the truck made it to the end of our road, but then we’ve got the “across the river and up the mountain” trek.  So everything had to be carried by hand between 1/4th and ½ a mile. Up a steep incline. Including things like stoves, washer, dryer, etc. That took several hours. We were so exhausted when we were done.

The most disappointing and stressful moment for me was rounding the corner and seeing the bodega. The kitchen counter tops were piled 3 feet high in building stuff, the inside was dirty with building “dust”, and the concrete under the bodega had not been poured.   We had planned to put all of our boxes under there.  WHERE were we going to put everything? But we sucked it up and got to work.  I got the bodega cleaned up, we hauled in boxes and just stacked them anywhere we could get them.

We had no space for awhile but the next week the concrete was poured and we got organized.   There have been some other hitches.  For instance, we don’t have running water.  There is a spring below our bodega (as in down the mountain… not under the house).  We will be piping water into a holding tank down there, and then we have a pump that does not take electricity that will pump the water up to a holding tank uphill from us. Then that will come to the house.   However, the pump was stronger than anticipated so we have to wait for steel pipes to be delivered (it was pumping the water so fast it burst the PVC pipes)   So for now… we have “walking water”  either us or one of our farm hands has to fill up the holding tank every morning with water from a nearby river.  Not an easy or fast task.  So we’ve learned to conserve water.

Conserving water is interesting.  We wash our clothes in a wash tub down by the river using the river water, and we bathe in the river as well.  That’s not to say we are getting super clean… but it wipes off the grime and cools us off. 🙂    Bathing in clothing is interesting… but it’s working.  Although we did visit a lumber store yesterday (5 hours away.. Ugh..)   and I admit to breaking the commandment of coveting when I saw those bathtubs. 🙂

We also didn’t have a front door until today, my husband is finishing it up now. 🙂  And we still don’t have windows.   We’ve forgotten what it was like to not have bug bites!

But the return is awesome.   We’ve met some amazing people in this journey who are eager to help, we’ve seen a village of people who are hungry for friendship, love, and fellowship, we’ve started to see what it’s like to truly get down on our hands and knees and work hard, and we’ve been greatly humbled.   If you are driving past literal shacks to get to your house suddenly living in the lap of luxury seems less important.

But most importantly to us, we can live in the way WE best see fit here.  We don’t have to worry about where our food is coming from or what’s in it, because we will be growing it.  We don’t have to worry about hormones in our eggs because we get them from our own chickens, we don’t have to worry about hormones in our milk, because it comes from the cows we milk every morning.

We are currently almost done with the bodega.  (our move here was 3 weeks ago)  Windows (well, shutters to keep out the rain) still need to be made, the water situation is not yet solved, and we are putting in the kitchen countertops tomorrow, but we are getting there, and in a pretty comfortable living situation in the meantime.

We’re enjoying sprouting seeds to get in the ground and already have a pretty good head start on a chayote (a version of local squash) vine growing, some plantains and bananas, and yucca growing on our farm.  Our radishes are all about an inch tall now and I’ve even planted a little flower garden. 🙂     We have 16 egg layers, 9  1.5 month old chicks and their momma, a few roosters, and some 4 month old hens.  We have 2 horses, 2 milk cows, a few calves, and 45 1 year old cows (to sell in a year for profit).   All in all we are so happy to finally be in a position to get started on our dream. It’ll be interesting to see where this journey takes us. 🙂

It hasn’t been at all easy. But when I wake up and see the amazing view we have of fog covered mountains, palm trees, and flowers, realize I’m 1 hour away from the Caribbean ocean, and we are actually living our dream of homesteading… I know it’s all worth it.

Then some things HAVE been easy… our house sold fast, we got the news today that our residency was approved (which is really short compared to the norm), we found land easily, etc…  Plus, it’s the best weight loss method I’ve EVER tried.  Who would have thought?  Working hard all day and eating healthy really DOES work! 🙂

You can read more about Suzanne and her family’s homesteading in Costa Rica adventure by visiting her blog, YHWH Leads (link removed – blog not available).

15 thoughts on “Guest Post: YHWH Leads”

  1. Cool post here. Its obvious to my wife and me that the family who publishes this blog and Suzanne and her family have a lot in common with us. We have a number of friends in CR that live nearby to the 119 ministry. I assume you know them. We were very close to 119 before their move from STL to CR. We also left STL at about the same time to a mountain top in Northwest Arkansas where we now live an off-grid homesteading life. It’s just getting started this month online as An American Homestead. I also publish a ministry Vlog called New2Torah.

    The Father is truly calling his people to be set apart!

  2. Amazing story! This is just what I am looking for as I am contemplating moving to CR myself. Everything I have found so far is for resort type property, which I cannot afford and do not want. I really want a secluded little farm of my own, and access by horse or mule would not be a problem to me. I look forward to reading the rest of your adventures.

    Incidentally, they sell chayote in a local market here in north TX. I have learned that it is much tastier raw than cooked! ;D

  3. We purchased 2 properties in southern part,and Limon area of the country,2004/2008. Presently,having huge legal problem in one of them due to some nationals who fraudently used the property to obtain a loan from a bank. It is costing us a treasure to get it back…
    A month ago,I met a retired Costa Rican who was telling me that he can show me how to obtain lands in his country without paying for it…sounds like homestead.I wonder if this is true!!
    I do not now how exactly you obtain the property that you are living now,if by any chance you know of this procedure, I will be happy to get some information from you.
    Thank you.

  4. Dear Suzanne,

    **Please note the CAPS are in place of italics, as I am not able to use Kendra’s tags on my craptop! So I am not “shouting” —which I think is so ridiculous, anyway…***

    For the record, I do not have a pastor either and AGREE VERY STRONGLY with you on that. Man’s ideas about God are flawed and filtered through human experience, so to follow one without question into the wilderness of your local Baptist (fill in the blank religion) church is spiritual folly. I was raised a Baptist with a “drug” problem—-I was “DRUG” IN THE DOORS EVERY TIME THEY WERE OPEN! 😉 and to this day I love a piano lead Gospel sing like no other white woman I know.

    Then I went to Catholic school when my mother converted to marry husband #2. I can say a novena in my sleep, recite the Rosary in the dark with no beads, and intimately understood the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation before I was old enough to legally drink wine.

    To round it all out, I was engaged to a Reform Jewish man and felt that our faith would be our undoing someday when there might be children involved, so I “undid” it early to save us all the pain. My first (and last!) husband of twenty + years came from Anglican stock and we were married in the Episcopal church. He is my soulmate and we are blessed with children that, Praise God, look just like HIM. LOL.

    So trust me when I say, I have “DONE” every revealed religion but Islam.

    But time and experience lead our family to embrace a more reasoned and logical practice of trust in our Creator. Our family meets with a home study group and, like our Founders, we are Deists.

    Revealed religions hold no mystery to neither my husband nor myself. We had the same “drive to Disney” hash out of prayer, reading, talking, tears and seeking that you and your Jesse did. Only it was on an eight hour drive to visit family—-no fun at the end , I assure you—but worth every minute! And the de-conversion out of “Christianity” was a as painful as anything it sounds like you went through with your loved ones. So I DEEPLY UNDERSTAND your path, if not your destination. 😉

    I wish you MUCH happiness and grace on your chosen path of understanding our God. You seem very convicted, and that is a great thing, because it sounds as if you will need that God ordained fortitude on the path you have chosen for your family.

    So it is NOT from a place of “you need to be in a Bible believing church with tithes and offerings three times a week” that I breath the word “CULT”. HARDLY! 😉 😉 A spiritual path is a solitary road between you and your Creator that no trumped up PREACHER/TEACHER/ STRONG MAN should be the gatekeeper to your personal enlightenment. You will never, EVER hear me say that.

    Just please understand that I don’t KNOW you, I don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of your lives—-just know that OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING, your spiritual path has some troubling hallmarks of what is typically referred to as a “cult”. But hey…what do I know…..I’m just a “God lover” and one could easily say that about my way to God. The only difference is that my lifestyle was not turned on its head to follow my spiritual calling. 😉

    Be well, dear, Suzanne, and may the God or our shared Universe bless you richly on your path.

    And incidentally, I agree with you on your rejection of vaccines as well. I am a Libertarian who despises the government force feeding my children poison in return for a useless public school education.

    😉 Upcycled

  5. Suzanne,
    You owe no apology to me. I owe you one as my opinion should have been kept to myself, however if we all offer no opinions what need would there be to have a blog?

    It is interesting that you have broken the chains of religious denomination administered by man. In my journey I have opened my mind beyond denomination to seek enlightenment. You are on a path that allows you to see the author of all things on a daily basis.

    Best of luck to you.

  6. Firstly, I apologize if my earlier comments came off harsh at all. 🙂 Typing on the phone gives me even less room for getting emotions across than normal.. plus typing on his ancient phone is pathetic.. LOL


    I know what you mean.. I’ve seen it done as well.

    We actually put our kiddos in the public school system for awhile here. Mainly because where we lived there weren’t other children and we wanted them to have that experience.. and it also helped them pick up the language quickly.

    our main reason for switching back to homeschool was the vaccines to be honest. We are VERY anti vaccination for our family and they are both demanded for school here, but also done at a moment’s notice without parent’s permission. yikes! So we pulled them out after we moved somewhere they were around children more often. 🙂

    As is here we actually have other children on the farm with us (who do not believe as we do) and they have met several friends down in the village who come up, and we try to make it down there for visits and to go to their church. We don’t have the same belief as their church but enjoy the fellowship there. 🙂

  7. As I said in the opening of my comment, I struggled with posting my feelings. I am not standing beside you don’t know all that has lead you to this place in your life. It seems like a happy place for you and that is joyful.

    I guess my feelings come from my life’s experience. I am of the opinion that children should be given every opportunity to choose their path in a place that offers them as many options as possible. Of course I am not educated on the depth of the culture in Costa Rica so my understanding of their opportunities in this regard is limited by my ignorance. I am sure you weighted your decision carefully and this choice was appropriate for your family.

    As a home school veteran I have seen many families raise their children up in a very strict religious setting. I have also witnessed those same families dealing with many problems as a result of this strict upbringing as their children become young adults. In these cases once the children got a taste of the free world they reacted with many emotions and behavior not anticipated by the parents.

    I guess it’s a matter of philosophy. We gave our children a Christian upbringing that allowed them exposure to the world as it exists on a limited bases with things like church, scouting, etc. Removing the public school influence was certainly the correct decision for us. When they went to college they had to adjust to the world and were equipped to make the adjustment.

    I wish you only the best in your pursuit of happiness and may the spirit be with you always!

  8. This post was so fun to read! What an amazing leap of faith, and a great story! I have spent some time in Costa Rica myself. Both in the city as well as the mountains. While I was there in July/August of 2006 I had the opportunity to join a church group and bring building supplies and medicine to a tribe in the Central mountains–I know what it feels like to haul goods for hours to your destination, through mud too! I remember experiencing bathing in the river (clothed) for the first time, as well as “running” water with no electricity–I had no idea that was possible with something like a ram pump.
    Thanks for sharing this story, it took me back to some great Costa Rica memories and also challenged me not to shrink away from hard work, the rewards are great!

  9. Suzanne here. Just wanted to respond to the isolation comment. Im not sure why that was assumed? we lijve near a town full of kiddos they play with often and already have many new friends.

    As to the cult comment.. Weve heard it before. It doesnt bother us at all. If somehow us having beleifs that are diff. from the norm and not being in a group/ not having a pastor to tell us what to do makes it a cult I’m okay with that. although to be honest.. it seems more cultish to HAVE a leader so I do often wonder where the comment comes from.

  10. After reading this post I struggled with whether to respond or not. I have very mixed feelings about this post. While I applaud the endeavor to seek a simpler path I can’t help but wonder about the effect on the children. As a home school parent with grown children I see the outcome of the path we have chosen. My children are happy and healthy but there were issues with socializing them that we had to overcome. I can’t imagine the effect of such isolation will have on the children.

    I wish them well and I pray their decision will be a successful endeavor.

  11. I fear for your friend’s family. Her new found “fellowship” has some pretty scary (read:cult) roots.

    I do pray for her safety and her further enlightenment. 😉

    Pray for her. Pray hard.

    • Upcycled,

      I can understand your concern, but I’ve been in many conversations with Suzanne and have had an intimate look into their lives, and I truly believe that she is exactly where the Lord would have her and her family. You are right in that people have to be extremely careful in these circumstances, but this family has been blessed with very discerning hearts. But yes, PLEASE do continue to lift them up in prayer!!


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