Sunday, May 27, 2018

Hodge Poge

Today is just going to be a bunch of hodge poge of my thoughts. To be quite honest, there are several deeper blogs brewing inside the details of my head and heart, but so much so it's almost overwhelming to break it down.
 So, for today, and until I can find a sense of regularity with this again (which may be not still for a while) I share my hodge poge thoughts.

 May is almost over and I have learned so much over the last few weeks, let alone this entire year thus far in 2018. I share some sketches of May with you...

 - My son turned 14! How is possible that as he finishes up 8th grade and moves to high school both of my babies will be high schoolers?? I love them so much. Something I have learned about "momming" the last few weeks are this:
Although it is no surprise, time is flying by fast and soon these kids of mine will fly into the world in their own ways. I want to savor these  years. I loved the toddler years, I was a stay at home mom. the preschool and elementary years were fun, too. But as they have grown and become more independent adults, I find little things I still want to teach them, lessons I wish they had gotten when they were younger and I am working hard these days to savor the moments with them...
 Play more games, go to more events, drive them without complaint, listen to my daughter's stories, let my son tell sarcastic jokes.
 This winter was way too full of providing (which is necessary) but now it's time to be more available and live in the moment and savor the time with them. I have been very much aware of this lately.

- In May I got to do 2 10K races. I shed 3 minutes between the two of them (meaning the first one I finished and felt good about what I did because of what winter had been and the second one I ran 2 weeks later was 3 minutes faster!) It feels good to be regularly running again. I feel some kind of goal coming on...

- School. Whew. The deeper I get into the harder it gets (DUH!)  I start off every semester by saying "this one is going to be challenging" so much so that my friends really just kind of laughs at me for that. Really it's just a matter of developing a new routine every semester along with life's schedule. This semester all 3 courses are online, which is OK, but who knew Astronomy was going to be SO HARD! I have to take 2 sciences and I picked astronomy thinking it would be kind of cool to study the stars, etc. Um... that was the not so educated me choosing. Astronomy is no joke. This semester is short but... it's going to be very challenging. Cultural anthropology is up my alley, however, carving time to read is the trick. In a (hopefully) soon to come blog, I will share about the group that awarded me the scholarship I am using to be able to take classes this summer. They are a neat group of people who would fall into things I've learned the last few weeks...
This is an example of a chart I did this week... it took me way too long but I did end up with a decent grade on it! However, it really took me a long time to understand and do it. 

- Change is inevitable. It is part of life. they say the only constant in this life is change, which is rather an ironic saying. But nonetheless, I have been sifting through a number of changes taking place around me... processing them, sometimes being way too emotionally spent over them. I am an analyzer- I look at every angle, every detail I possibly can to a point of it driving myself nuts at times. As change has been taking place around me the last few weeks I am recognizing strengths that have not had the ability (or maybe chose not to??) to  shine. While these can challenge me, it also excites me to see this growth and pushes me to keep being that person. I also can see my weaknesses. Change does that - it opens the eyes if we let it. I am choosing to let it. BUT I have to admit to you it took me some days of wrestling, exhausting moments of anxiety and a very good friend to lovingly push me to get to this place of doing better to embrace the change and shine through it.

 And that was May in a nutshell. Lots of learning moments. It's interesting to me that the times I experience the strongest growth and push through in who I am becoming the more my old insecurities want to push through. That's my next thing to ponder and process, I suppose :)

 But one day at a time. As cliche as that may sound, I have also been reminded well of that in recent weeks, too. One day, one decision, one battle and one victory at a time.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Getting back up

I stared at my palms, trickling a bit of blood. I wanted to quit. I thought about it. But I got back up and kept going...

 Yesterday on my run, I fell hard. My foot caught a crack in the sidewalk just the wrong way and as hard as I tried to keep myself from hitting the pavement, it was happening. As soon as the trip came, I worked my muscles to pull myself upright so i would not fall, but when I kept propelling my feet forward in an effort to gracefully continue (hey... it has worked in the past to keep going without actually falling) my body said "nope. This is happening." And so I managed to get my hip to hit closer to the grass and catch myself on my palms.

 But not without a little bit of blood and even more frustration.

 The fall happened quickly. I skid across the sidewalk a little bit, but I stood up. I looked at my palms, which were throbbing, and very seriously considered calling my husband to come get me. But, as frustrated as I was, I needed to finish that run.

 I can count on one hand in 10 years how many times I have fallen when running. That's a good thing, as if I had to use two hands to count my falls I might be in worse shape. But every time I fall, I learn a new thing about myself.

 Right now, I am re-learning some aspects of believing in myself. Running has always taught me that. For that reason, amongst others, I love the sport. I am not an elite and never will be, but I learn that I am capable of more than I credit myself. I learn that I can do what I put my mind to. Running teaches me to move past words said or opinions held and be me. I love that running teaches me to keep going.

 So, when I fell yesterday, i was reminded of this lesson. The truth is, I have a "race" this weekend and it will be my first since October. I won't be racing against anyone but myself. I know I'm going to have to push hard because it's going to hurt a little.(okay, maybe a lot.)  The competitor in me may be slightly frustrated for the backwards momentum of my ability to run because of the circumstances of life. But here is running once again teaching me that I CAN. and I WILL. so I am really looking forward to this event, just because for me, it is proof to myself that I am more than what I often believe. And that is one reason I run. Because it helps me believe.

 I am a dreamer, a goal setter and a go-getter. I sometimes fail, I sometimes go backwards. But I always get back up and keep going.
 I may be stagnant at times, but I figure out how to muddle my way through it and come out stronger. And that is sometimes the only way God teaches me, or rather, the only way I stop to listen. Because when you're stuck in the mud, so to speak, forced to slow down on whatever it is.... I figure out it's time to listen.

 Falls are the same way. Like a knock over the head (or scraped, bloody palms....) a fall teaches me God is there. He's waiting. He's leading. And He's encouraging me always to get back up and keep going. Don't let life knock me down. Don't let the words stop me. Don't let others' actions get in my way. Follow Him. Keep going. Let Him clean off the rocks from my wounds and take my hand and lead me (to the finish line....)

 So yep... yesterday I fell really hard. It hurt a lot (and my muscles today are reminding me how they helped catch me....) but I am glad I fell. Because I remembered that when I fall or get knocked down, I have the courage and the strength to get back up and keep going.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I return to my thoughts on "the little things" moments. I have had a hard time embracing those on many days, if I am being honest. But I've had so many... and let so many go unnoticed... that I wanted to share a few of the very beautiful ones from this last week. Sometimes, when I am feeling the most doubts, whether I deserve it or not (ok, mostly I know I really never deserve it)
God shows up in the coolest of ways to just remind me that I am on the right path and that I am taking the right steps and growing more into who I am supposed to be. Here are a few from the last week...

 1. School
  This semester has been long and exhausting. And I am already signed up for summer courses. In lieu of finances, I was questioning myself slightly whether I was doing the right thing or not. And yet I could not make myself feel any other way because it just seems right. And I am afraid if I take one semester off it'll only be too easy to take another one. And so I signed up, not sure how finances would play out. And lots of prayer. Guess what?
 Last Friday I got not one... but TWO... phone calls to tell me that I was awarded two scholarships! God is good! And I am reminded I am on the right path. I asked... I took steps of faith.. He provided.
 And like I kid, I was grinning ear to ear when I heard of them.

2. More Scholarships... But not Mine
   Many of you know that since my mom passed away in 2011, we have had a 5K in memory of her to raise funds for a scholarship in her memory. It's exhausting... and so much work... but so worth it in the most humbling of ways. And now, being a student myself and receiving scholarships, I have an even deeper appreciation of it, if that makes any sense. I have questioned and doubted myself in this area too. But I have learned so much along the way of putting this event on and meeting students who are recipients and hearing their stories.
  This week we awarded the 7th Linda A. Ferguson Memorial Scholarship. I shouldn't be surprised that I still tear up at this, but ... I was caught off guard by it. I had to choke back tears a few times in talking about mom to the recipient, listening to dad, and hearing her story of why this scholarship was meaningful.
 Sadly this year I am taking a break from the 5k, but funding is still there for future scholarships and it's not to say we won't host the 5K again next year. But... it was the right thing for life to take a year's break from it.

3. School
 I guess school is the theme of this blog. :) But this week I got to present my honors project. I have worked on this all semester. Taking the Spanish course as an honors course was my choice, and I did it because that is my end goal and I want to push myself in those areas. The requirements were: write a paper (due at end of semester) in Spanish about what I learned through my research of my topic. My topic was my choice, approved by my professor. The other requirement was putting together a presentation, to be given at the Honors Symposium, amongst all the other honors students. No other students in Spanish courses were in honors, so I was up against psychology students, art students, business students and engineering students. The symposium was really awesome to be honest. I saw cool projects and talked to neat people and most of all, got to educate others on my topic, which is one close to my heart: the Indigenous of Colombia. I had the opportunity to read some books recommended to me by the Colombians as well conduct some interviews while I was there from people who lived with the Indigenous tribes. I learned so much. I loved this project. And I had a great time presenting.

4. Running
  Hello, my friend... I missed you... and it feels so good, even if slowly doing so... to be out on the pavement again. I am looking forward to a 10K event in just 2 weeks. Sometimes the hardest races are the best ones, not because of time (to be determined, but entering knowing it will not be a PR) but because of what I learn or see in myself.
5. Family Movie Night
  We haven't done one of those in quite a while, but this weekend we watched The Greatest Showman... excellent movie! I highly recommend it. I've always enjoyed musicals and this one was exceptional. I suppose a part of me relates to the storyline in some regards, so that is likely a piece of it, but the music was great, the actors did well and the story was well told. I'm not a movie critic, but I really enjoyed it. One song in particular I really enjoyed
 This Is Me

 in the midst of changes and sometimes uncertainties, there are always positive moments to be found. This was a beautiful week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Step One...

Step 1. Get up when the alarm goes off at 4:30
 Step 2. Bathroom while coffee brews
  Step 3. Drink coffee and have some quiet time
   Step 4. Get dressed and RUN

 As I referred to in my last post, this winter has been long. The weather has been less than ideal, I've been a bit tired from working 2 jobs and of course my semester schedule was strange, causing me to need to be at work a little earlier. So, I don't share that to complain, I'm sharing that to talk about how the struggle to exercise has been real, which makes the success feel all the greater.

 I love my exercise time. Temperatures have never bothered me when it comes to running. And getting up early in the morning has never been an issue for me. But this winter it has been a challenge. And many days... the challenge won over the determination factor I usually can put into full force.

 However, my determination cap is back on and I am running again. I MISSED it! The feeling of the fresh morning air. Greeting the day before most people have even gotten out from under the covers. Watching the sun rise. Breathing in the beauty of a new day, new beginnings. Running is part of me. Not running=not feeling completely me. That sounds totally cliche, but I am being serious. And so being back out there every morning is a very good feeling.

 Now, I am feeling like I'm at square one, on that very first run, such as I felt back in 2008 when I began the journey of running. It's a struggle. My breathing is a bit labored and my pace is even less than it used to be (which was never elite) .  And that competitive piece of me cares about that. But... the heart of me does not. It is SO good to be doing something I love again.

 I'll pick up a couple of May races, and I am not out there for a time, but I am out there because it's part of who I am. And it feels good, regardless of where I am in the pack of others. It's not about them; it's about me. It clears my head, shakes my anxieties, gives me a smile and starts me out right for my day.

And so I run again. Truthfully many of my blogs come from running because it is a time I can think without pressure and the thoughts flow freely. I learn much about myself through my training. That's a piece of the beauty in it for me. I look forward to sharing my running journey with you (again.) Sometimes priorities shift, but we should always come back to the core of who we are. Running does not define me, but it is a part of me.
 One step at a time, beginning with that alarm at 4:30 am.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Finger Painting Masterpiece

My most-read blogs, or my "best" ones, not by the standards of the likes or the comments, but just by my reading back through them recently, are my most vulnerable blogs. I have said that before. And as I was reading through the last several years looking for a few specific things, I remembered lessons learned I had nearly forgotten. And for that reason I am glad that I write.

 Being vulnerable at times is really hard and also scary. And yet, those are the times I allow myself to actually drink in what God is trying to teach me. Rather than just talk about it with the many around me, I am pondering it, processing it and putting it to 'pen and paper.' 

 And so this morning, here I sit. And the image that keeps coming to my mind is finger painting. 

 Do you remember being a kid in preschool or Kindergarten and the teacher bringing out the paint? We were given a semi-glossy fresh sheet of white paper and draped in an apron to spare our clothing and then given free reign over creating a finger painting. 
 More often than not, what happens is that it starts out with separated colors and then the more that the child gets going on the painting, the more the colors just smear together and in the end often create a mess of colors on a page, looking more greenish-brown and just smears, than looking like some type of guided painting. 

 I can't separate that image from my own life right now. I'm not finger painting, but it just feels like everything is overlapping and smearing and getting messier until it's becoming one page of just blurred movements. A lot of "What If's" hang in the wind the last few weeks, leaving me smearing my paint rather than making calculated movements to create a clear picture for presentation. To me, I can see each line I draw with my finger (each what if), and I can see each color I am choosing (each category of life needing decisions) but once I get going with all of those, they blend, becoming a smeared painting. One overlaps the other or depends on what happens in the other area. It's messy and complicated. And to the eye of the beholder ..... not all that pretty.

  At the beginning of the year, I chose the word FAITH as my word of the year. Faith plays a role in my every day life, whether we are referring to my faith in God or faith in others. Faith plays a role in everyone's life one way or another. Even if you don't have faith in something or someone particular, you're probably putting faith in yourself. 

 I had little idea when I chose that word what it would come to mean. Faith is not easy. It's a stretch. and I am an analyzer, so for me I complicate the process of faith. I am not always looking to "fix" something, but neither am I just living it out on faith. 
  Here is what I am learning currently about faith... 
 first of all, I have a very VERY long way to go in being a living example of daily faith in God. I know I refer to my Colombian experiences often, but these friends and moments have taught me and continue to teach me about how little faith I sometimes have. The last few weeks for me have been hard. I'm experiencing a change in just about every area of life and honestly, I don't really have many answers to the questions that are arising. 
 I speak with my Colombian friends nearly daily and in two separate conversations, it was lovingly said to me that I have good health, I have a job, my family is well.... I should be grateful. 
    .... and they were both correct, as they shared with me not having a paycheck for the last several months, stories of ones close to them fighting hard illness and not being able to get the healthcare they need, the difficulties of the government's opposition, and the struggle to survive. And yet do you know what they are doing every day in my conversations with them? 
  They are always saying how good God is. How they don't have fear because they have seen God provide time and time again. They tell me how yes, it can be stressful, but God is in control regardless of what the outcome in their immediate life is. They are teaching me about faith. 
 My problems are real, yes. The changes are affecting me, yes. My depression and anxiety play a role in how I view and feel what is happening, but listening to them, learning from them, always helps me put my own self and faith into perspective. 
   I have a very long way to go. 

 Each change happening for me right now is all faith dependent and I have no control over any of them, mostly. And the "control" I may have is also faith dependent. So, like a wham over the head, even though it's not so simple to act on faith, that is where I stand. Pray. Pray . and Pray some more. And I know that He knows what is going to happen, what the outcomes will be. He never fails. We fail.People around us fail. But He never does.

 The winter has been long. And exhausting. And a season of faith that I have not been embracing all that well. Winters are blah. It is April and the snow is STILL falling here in Ohio (some days). I am dying for spring to come. But, it matches the season of life I've been facing. 
 Hard decisions. Exhausting days. Questioning results. Let me be real for a moment. For the last few months, I have been working two jobs- my day job and one on the weekends. Through that I have learned so much, but it has been draining. My semester has been long- really it's been good, but long. It changed my schedule at work a little, which changed my workout schedule. And then we have the cold, winter days. So, the winter has been long. But a verse came to my mind the other day...

 Isaiah 40:8 "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever."

 His promises stand true when the grass is dying and the flowers are hidden beneath the snow.  His promises hold me up when others let me down. His word stands true when circumstances change. I am reminded of a hymn from growing up...
  On faith the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. 


 How could I forget that one small word that God whispered in my ear in the early days of January? I didn't know what the year was going to bring.... but HE did! He knew I would need to stand on my faith stronger than I ever have. He knew that I would be tested. he knew that my world was going to change. And HE wanted to stretch me and grow me and give me opportunities to choose faith over fear. (ouch... just typing that... I realize how many times I choose fear....) 

I take you back to my image of the finger painting. It gets messy, right? The paint is all over the page... the paint is often on the apron and on other places besides the fingers. And yet when the finger painting is carried home by the child, how often does a parent take that painting and hang it proudly on the wall or on the refrigerator? Just like a parent does that, God really takes my own messy self and  holds me up as a masterpiece as well...His masterpiece. He created me. And messy or not, He loves me and He is teaching me and He views me as beautifully and wonderfully made, even when I feel like a smeared mess.  Faith.... it makes all the difference in these days.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Human Chain

Today I will  write my final blog about the 2018 Colombia trip. (Although they could keep going...) I have other life lessons taking place that need space on this blog. But I want to close up sharing about the trip.

 On Monday night, our final night in the village, the people of Brisas del Mar prepared a special goodbye for us, as is their usual way of saying "thank you and until next time." As we sat down, waiting for the program to begin, the community filtered in. I have now been there three times, and this goodbye program was packed to the fullest I have ever seen. There were certainly no seats left, and quite honestly. there wasn't much standing room left, either. It was beautiful and exciting to see. THIS is why we come. For these people.
 The last night is always hard for me. I tend to get slightly more quiet because the beauty of the week, the lessons I'v learned, the friendships I have deepend are so rich and I am working through those emotions. I am never ready to leave, because every time I prepare to go home, I leave a tiny piece of my heart there. (ok, actually, a large part of my heart) But also the goodbye night is beautiful and fun. And so I wanted to enjoy the last moments and not be sad.
  And so I watched the kiosk area fill with the community, many faces we had never even seen. When the program began, we really enjoyed what took place. Pastor Javier had created a series of little plays, which involved the younger kids to the older of the village. To see all ages involved was special.  Following the short acts was a comedian, who spoke super fast. It wasn't that I didn't understand him, but the jokes he was telling seemed to be "inside jokes" to the village. They didn't make any sense to us. Whatever he was saying made the community laugh, sounds I won't forget, as their laughter is beautiful, which made us laugh. And lastly, they performed some beautiful dances.
 The dances also ranged from the younger ladies of the village to the oldest ladies in the village. I loved seeing it all come together. Age didn't matter. Language didn't matter. Skin color didn't matter. The evening was beautiful. At the end of their dance performance, they each grabbed one of our hands and brought us into the dance. While I can't dance worth a a penny, it was a blast. Smiling and laughing and not caring who was watching... we just had a beautiful time. It ended with Mike and one of the older ladies dancing with the rest of us circled around them.

 We closed our night with a group devotion, where we all shed many tears. Happy tears, of moments recalled from the week, along with sad tears, hard to say goodbye. Bonds were created.

   As we entered the next morning, the day of our departure, we enjoyed coffee and breakfast. The goodbyes were hard, as they always are. It's hard to explain the bonds we develop there. The community is so loving and beautiful. We go to serve, but I think we leave far more changed by their lives than we change theirs. We hugged, we cried, and we took lots of last minute photos.  And then it was time to go. As we were all settled on the bus and we were pulling away, we always wave out the windows at the people, as they stand with teary eyes as well. Only as we were pulling away, they didn't seem to be in their normal spots. I just figured they had things to do. But as we drove forward, a hundred yards later (or less) the bus stopped. Curious, we all looked ahead to see why...
  And the village had formed a human chain across the road. They were blocking the road so we could not leave. (As if I were not crying enough already. ) Oh, how this village has stolen my heart. And I leave a little piece there more every time.

 Once they broke their human chain, Pastor Javier got back on the bus to share a few words.  He spoke to us with a heart both full and sad, the same as ours. He shared special words.  He said that as they formed their chain and tried to keep us there, really he knows that we have ministries and lives at home and it was time for us to return to home and use our gifts there. But that they would be praying for us.
 They pray for us.

  My family in Brisas del Mar.... until the next trip....

   I close with this last piece to share. People ask me why I go back. Some ask why I use my vacation hours to do hard work. Others want to know why I go to a place that has, well... nothing. But it has become my second home; they have become my family. There I found healing in my heart and hope for the future. I went to change their lives but really, they have changed mine. And each time I grow in a new way, come back a little more reshaped, more challenged. I love to see how they grow- physically but spiritually, too. And I love that for now, this is a calling on my life as much as being a wife, a mom, and a marathon employee are.
   A few of my favorite random photos from the trip....
Jay and Leonardo singing "We Are the World" 

The group in Alto de Julio

Paula, me, and Milena

LOVE this photo of the community surrounding us during the goodbye night

We drank coconut water straight from the coconuts off the tree

This was cool... they formed a line, and one guy up in the tree threw coconuts down and then they passed them down the line for us to have fresh coconut water

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Women's Night

I can't believe a month has passed already since being in Brisas del Mar. So much life goes on in such a short time. One thing Brisas teaches me every time I go is to live in the moment. However, that seems much harder here in the States, in the every day "real life" of course. In a month, a lot can and has happened. (Hence it's taking me time to get these blogs written.)

 I will work on wrapping these blogs up from this trip, but there are still a few things to share, and no doubt, missing some details. Explaining experiences is difficult. And especially ones so profound.

 Today I share with you about the women's night we hosted. This was a new experience for me, for our team. We've never focused on just the women. In August a team went to Brisas and they did ministry for those studying to be pastors, and they also hosted women's events. I was able to help out from the states in giving my ideas and helping plan those a little, but I was not there to see the beauty of it unfold.
 In Brisas, unintentionally, the women do not get the attention or credit they should. They do not get opportunities to pamper themselves. There isn't money or convenient stores for them to buy nail polish or the makeup or go to a spa to get their hair done. They don't have women's get togethers (per say) where they are ministered to and loved on for a few minutes. And so that was our goal. We wanted to build off what the August team had done. And this was our first experience to coordinate, participate and facilitate a night for the beautiful women.

 The night was to take place on Sunday evening. Paula and I had the opportunity to go house to house for  few minutes to personally invite the women. Pastor Javier took us, because if we had gone on our own, they might have wondered why we were coming to their doors. While they are friendly and accustomed to us being in their village, it was a new adventure to go to their homes in this manner, so he joined us to introduce us, to make the invitation more welcoming. That was really special. That gave us a few minutes to talk with these women, inside their homes, even if they should choose not to come to the event, we had time to see a little about their lives.
 In one home, a young girl was making arepas and allowed us to watch and talk with her a few moments. In another home, one of the older ladies was so excited that we were there and she wanted to show us her way of life. Paula got photos (which i need to grab so I can share them.) But she showed us how she would get water and carry it on her head, how she would get the food from very far and carry it for miles and how that took place. She showed us inside her home and she was smiling through every moment of it. To me, where I once would have thought that they would not want us inside their homes for possibly embarrassment or miscommunication of cultures, I think that these women were thrilled to have us there, even if for a few moments.  In another home, we visited the wife of the maintenance man in the village. She was a little timid at first, but full of beauty and fun. As our days went along there, she came more and more to our events, and even to give us hugs goodbye. We only had time to go to 5 houses and then we had to return to another project, but I loved getting to do that.

 When Sunday arrived, Diana, Paula and I sat down to go over everything we would be doing. The 3 of us made a good team. We worked well, we each had different gifts to bring to the event and God worked in all 3 of us as much as He may have been working in the other ladies of the village. I loved partnering with them on this.

 Sunday evening rolled around, and we were ready. Little by little the ladies showed up, curious, but timid. We had to coax them to sit in the front row (no different from here in the States, probably. ) The group grew little by little and we began (almost) on time. Colombia on time is more or less at least 15 minutes after the actual scheduled time. Our first event was to play pictionary. We split the ladies into 2 sides and we had a white board for our drawing board. Now, mind you, these women had never played Pictionary. So, we explained the game and Paula went first, so they could see how it worked. Milena and I "refereed" the event, since we could speak both languages and know if it were guessed by our ladies or theirs. It was so fun once again to play a game (much like singing in Church) where the language is not a barrier. The ladies didn't want to draw at first, but as we got going, it became a time of everyone rolling in laughter. I had tears, we laughed so hard. To hear them laughing, I know they could be heard in the streets because the men told us that, was such a joy. So much so that the joy of it made me cry as much as the silliness of seeing their faces and playing a new game and the banter that went on between them. We were all having a great time.

 Once that settled down, we taught them "I Love You Lord" in Spanish and sang together. And then I brought a lesson. I had something in my heart to share, and I actually pulled it from a blog I wrote a few years back and meshed it into newly learned lessons of my life. It was based off this post here, but elaborated upon with current life lessons about how we are beautiful in God's eyes and He will use all of our stories.
 When we finished, we gave each of them a mirror that on the back of it said "Eres armada" or you are loved.
 The women hugged us as they said thank you, and one very older lady in the group animatedly told us about how she could see herself in the morning and she could pamper herself. It was a spectacular night for us. I hope we can continue having those times with the women.