Monday, October 16, 2017

The Columbus Half Marathon

It was a busy weekend, working at the Columbus expo, leading up to the race day. I enjoyed being in the city, as it had been a while since I've enjoyed the good capitol city of Ohio. I always enjoy talking to the different runners, whether it's about our race or about what they are wanting to do and accomplish at that particular event. The talk of the weekend was the unusual warm weather for October that the race was going to have.

 It was a little unusual for October. The start temps were set for 68. I decided to change my original idea of what I'd be wearing for race day.

 I got up at 3:15 so I could be on the road at 4 am. I admit, it was a little strange going to the event by myself, but the quiet ride gave me some good mental preparation time. As much as I didn't want to make this race about a finish time, it is very hard to knock the goal setter out of me. So I had a rough goal in mind.

 Parking was easy, so once I got there and beat the closing roads, I kicked my seat back and chilled out for a minute before going to the start line, which was roughly a mile from the garage.

 The temperature was warm and the air was humid, with rain on the brink of coming in. But the 68 degree temperature did not bother me. It was fairly windy, though.

 I have nothing but good things to say about this event. The organizers do a wonderful job. The corrals were well labeled, there were plenty of port o pots in each corral, and the morning emcee was great. Because I am not an elite runner, I was a few corrals back, so that may have been the only downside, which is not to fault any one or the race. It just is a full event, so when the start actually happened, it was nearly 20 minutes before I got to cross the start line.

 They had fireworks to start the event, which was really cool. And the ACDC song Thunderstruck opened up the event. When our group finally reached the start line, I set off with a decent pace, but I knew even then it was not going to be one I could maintain the entire event. But I decided to maintain it as long as I could and slow it down as need be. I know that is a backwards way to race, trust me... I know.  But I wanted to push for as long as I could and then just give it all I had for the rest of the event.

 That pace lasted me to about mile 6. I don't typically consume too much water when I run. I consume what I need to, but I am not one to stop at every mile for the water. But... it was warm and I know what I need to do (or not do) when it comes to this, so I utilized the water stops a few more times than normal. I kept pushing forward.

 At mile 8, I began to run with my heart, as the legs were tired. Around mile 10, as I took a short walk break, there was a lady doing this same and we chatted just for a minute. Her goal was "to finish" . Through the next couple of miles, she and I would take turns passing one another, evidence that we were probably feeling about the same and the fluctuation of our pace was similar.

 At mile 12.5, I came up on her walking, tapped her, and said "let's go." And so the last half mile, we didn't talk, we didn't cheer, but we finished that last leg out strong. I knew I wasn't going to make my (semi-loose) goal, so I adjusted it and just sat in to enjoy what was a finish. She had a final push a little stronger than I did, but when we got our medals, she high fives me, and we went out ways. I don't know what her name was, but that's the cool thing about the running community. There is a sense of camaraderie that is rare. Different goals, different stories, different lives, different journeys, but a similar experience had by all of us.

 I didn't finish with a giant smile, but I didn't have tears. My body was tired, it was a struggle, I admit.  but I was happy inside. I walked it out and called my family.
  It was not my worst finish time, but it was not my best. It was not even as good as my event a year ago on a course with lots of hills, but a year is a long time between the long distance events.

 Here's a little recap:
   1. I loved the race. It didn't have anything spectacular to look at through the course, but it was so well done. There was live music all over the entire course, water stops were well done, signage was good, and the volunteers were great. The course was flat (which I think led some people to assume I should just fly through it... but I knew my body and what I could do for this event.) Many people PR there. I did not.

 2. Yes, I had a little goal in my head. But the truth is, I knew going into the event right about the time I would finish, and I hit that pretty close. I am 10 lbs heavier with a life full of different obstacles at this point than this time last year, and I know those have played a role in my training and my body. So for me, this finish was another victory, another step in the direction of knowing I can do what I put my mind to, even when it is exhaustingly tough.

 3. I will spare the details, but my ride home was interesting as my stomach decided to settle down from the race, which means it actually decided to let loose all it had been juggling up. The body is a strange thing, how it responds to pounding the pavement, juggled nerves, and other minor physical components playing a role. I wouldn't change it though. I'd do it all over again.

  So, I can't say I love the question of "what was your finish time?"  because I don't like that we focus so much on that. But I can say that I finished well, with all my heart and all I had in me and I am so glad I did the race. To some it would be that four letter word I no longer use (slow), but it's my story, and for me, there are more reasons than one that this finish was a victory. I have some new goals in mind now, and the aim of not going so long between long-distance races.

Friday, October 13, 2017


T Minus 2 days until my race. I am very excited. Here is what is on the brain today... just a quick rundown of it because I am short on time (Besides, I should probably learn to be less wordy anyway....)

 I am super excited for this race. A year has passed since my last half marathon.

 I am 10 lbs heavier, have faced some crazy life obstacles, have gained mental and inner strength I didn't know existed even if maybe I've lost a little of the body strength. I have a new perspective on who I am, what I want, where I'm going and the One who carries me through it all.

 A year does a whole lot.

Sunday my toes will touch the start line.

 I do not know what my time will be, but all that matters is how good of a time I have doing it and what I've learned and gained along the way.

 I am competitive by nature, so of course a part of me will be striving for perfection. And yet, I know I am perfectly imperfect in so many ways and that is what makes me me. And I will run with grace with that knowledge.

 I will finish, in spite of the little odds stacked against me.

 I will fight the negative thoughts probably sometimes, but that is when my heart will carry me through. I love running not because I am world class at it, but because through it I learn more about who I am and more about the One who created me. I find the fighter spirit in me when I run and that pushes through to other areas of my life.

 When I am told I can't, it makes me push harder to prove I can. When I fear failure, I fight the thoughts to grow stronger. When I am completely exhausted, I did deep to encounter the passion to push me. When my legs hit a wall, my heart reminds me to keep going.

 I am not going to win any awards this weekend. But I've already won...
 Perhaps that sounds cheesy to so many others, but I know that I have gained so much along this way, and running helps me have the miles and the quiet to reflect on that.

 I have a few cheerleaders strongly behind me this weekend who don't even know how much their words and support mean to me as I head out Sunday. And I will run with all I have and I can't wait to see how it goes and to share all about it.

 I am a fighter. yes, I am quiet. But I am strong. And I am not going to let heat, exhaustion, words, weather or any other thing or person strip that away.
   Here I come, Columbus :)
inspirational cross country running quotes - Bing Images

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Blessings for Brisas

If you haven't learned this about me yet, let me just tell you I am a passionate person. When an event, a person, an activity, a place or a cause grow dear to my heart, I am all in. I have been criticized before for being too passionate and there are times I have to learn to tone it down, but it is just part of what makes me me. And so I can't apologize for that.

 I write out about some of the topics about which I'm passionate. And I try not to talk about them unless asked because that passion flows and can be overwhelming (I am told).  Nonetheless, I'm about to overflow one of my passionate moments here.

 If you have followed my blogs for any time, You know what Colombia means to me. They have become my family, a part of my my life journey. And dare I say, perhaps I am becoming part of theirs, too.

 Today I want to pour my heart out about the clinic in Brisas del Mar. I wrote about them here in 2017 and when I first went there, I wrote about it in this blog post. If you bear with me in reading my heart, you will learn why today this is what I am sharing.

 I am not a medic or a nurse, nor do I have any background in that way of life except for the simple fact of how much I took care of my mom when she was dying that I feel I got a taste of the medical world. So I would not say that medical life is my passion. But.... helping people is. And that is exactly what the clinic in Brisas del Mar does.

 On my first trip to the village, one of my jobs as a team member was to help collect medical supplies for us to take to the clinic. This little clinic sees 20-30 patients a day and they answer emergency calls in the middle of the night - not by phone, mind you, but by the people coming in, often times wailing or yelling for the doctor. The people who visit the clinic have no money. They can't afford to pay for doctor visits, let alone get themselves to the nearest hospital, which is a 45 min drive, which most of them do not have a means of transportation, so they then have to find a way to get there, let alone figure out how to pay for their care. Often times they can even be turned away by those hospitals (which, mind you, are not clean.)

 When I was "tasked" with helping get medical supplies, I was not sure what to do, so I began praying for guidance on it. I did some emails and made some calls and God did the coolest thing.... he led me to Kettering Health Network. They have a warehouse full of medical supplies that are overstock and they use these to give to groups going on trips such as ours. you guys... we filled 8 suitcases I believe with supplies!! And every time a team has gone since, KHN allows us to come in and do the very same thing. But that began my tie to this little clinic.
  When I am there, I don't do medical work (I would not know how). I don't really spend time in the clinic except to maybe help translate for a team member (Cindy)  or spend time with Yuleida (clinic administrator) listening to what they have done, and what their dreams are to continue doing.

 This clinic runs as a ministry of the church. They don't charge their patients... the patients could not pay! You guys, we have no idea here in the states what it is like to not have health care. Even those of us without insurance or good resources do not get turned away from being seen. These people don't have that!

 I want to share a story with you about a man I met on my trip in June. We went as a team (about 5 of us went) to visit a man who was unable to walk, and I saw firsthand how much this community needs this clinic. The man was around my age, in his early 30s, and he can't walk. He doesn't have crutches, he doesn't have a wheelchair, but nonetheless, he had a smile and he was so happy when we came to say hello.

 15 years ago, this man got sick. So, when he was roughly 14-15. No one knew what was wrong with him and at that time, there was no clinic there to treat him. He could not get medical help. And whatever the illness was, it took over his body so much with having no healthcare to treat him, that he became paralyzed.  Today, he is physically healthy, minus the inability to walk. He crawls like a baby. He was unable to finish school because he could not get there. And no one ever was able to diagnose his illness. He doesn't go to church... imagine trying to crawl across a dirt road to get where you need to go. So he stays in his home all the time. Now, the church there learned of this man's condition and has now established regular visits with him and has helped gap a bridge that was there. But for 15 years this man has lived his life that way.
 Because he did not have health care, he is now limited in what he can do, where he can go and how he can live. It's absolutely eye opening and heartbreaking. And if you don't see this, you probably have a hard time believing it.

 I know there are many villages out there in this same state. I know that there are people here who need help (hurricane victims, wildfires, the Las Vegas shootings.) It just happens to be that Colombia and the village of Brisas del Mar is the place that has captured my heart. It has become a second home to me. The people there have taught me to love.  The hugs, the kisses, the greetings, the joy they possess when they have so little in their lives.... it's incredible.

 I may need to do another post about this, just for the sake of sharing more facts about the clinic an the medical conditions. But here is my point to this blog...

 That clinic is in danger of closing down. The funds have dried up. And if they close down, those people will have no place to get medical care. They can't afford to pay for medication or for transportation to the next nearest facility, and no doctor would travel to them. They don't have knowledge of how to take care of medical needs... that is what the clinic helps them do. While the nurses have done some "seminars" to help the women in the village have an understanding so they can help sick people in transit to the clinic, if they don't have supplies or a means to get to another facility, that knowledge won't carry them very far.

 And so our Mission to Colombia group is planning a benefit event to help the clinic stay open. We may not make a dent in it, but then again... we may very well be able to help sustain them a little longer as they work hard on their end to make connections to keep running through other resources.

On November 4, we are going to have the first Blessings for Brisas 5K.
This is the logo for the event and the shirts (please excuse the fact it was a screen shot) 

This post is a place for me to pour out my heart about how much I love that clinic. and it's not really to promote our event, but that being said... if you know a runner or a walker, if you are one, or if you just want to donate to this cause, you can do so by going to our registration site here

 We have no idea what we are going to raise, but we are prayerful that through this, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus, as we are called to do and be. As I said, I know how many causes and needs exist.... but this one is near and dear to my heart.

 You'll likely find me talking about the 5K and the clinic in the next few weeks. The clinic administrator, Yuleida, has become one very dear friend to me. So many times, their needs put mine into a whole new perspective... one day at a time.
Doctora, Nurse and Pastor outside the clinic

Yuleida and Doctors with the new ultrasound machine, provided by GE and fundraising efforts.... a much needed item for the use of helping the young women in the village 

The staff unloading the supplies we bring

Women and children waiting outside the clinic for their turn inside 

The dental room in the clinic 

This is the room where all the information is taken on a patient and recorded 

One of the exam rooms. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Just a Sunday Run

2 weeks to go until my next race. I'm counting down and looking forward to it with anticipation, simply for reaching towards another goal. I love the process of how goals stretch me and what I learn.

 This weekend was supposed to be a 10-11 mile run for me. But life interrupted that, and sometimes I just have to make the best out of what I can do with the time I have and life circumstances. Which is part of what makes the journey for me all the more accomplishing.
 I know there are countless runners out there who also have the same obstacles (and more) that I have, but each person's story and journey is different.

 Since I did not get that run in on my typical Saturday morning long distance morning run, I had to make time this morning. Sundays are typically my day of rest all around. I like to "sleep in " (which means 7 am) and relax with early morning quiet reading and coffee and move at a little slower pace, as we prepare for church. So I really try to avoid Sunday training runs. However, I knew if I did not get myself out the door this morning, it was not going to happen.

 So when my alarm went off at 5, I groaned a little, but I got up. I made my coffee and had a few minutes of quiet before preparing to head out the door. It seems fall has stepped in, which is appropriate for October 1. The temperatures are perfect for running, quite honestly. It's time for me to switch out my seasonal running gear.

 I was tired and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to fit in the 10-11 I wanted, but I decided that 8 was better than none. And so I set out.

 There was nothing spectacular about this morning's run. It even feels sort of silly to be writing an entire post about this, except this is what I do, how I process, how I share.

 Here is what I took out of my run today, the parts of growth I am experiencing:

1. I only fit in 7.5 miles today, but the point is, I could have not done it at all, so I pushed myself and did it anyway. For me, this is success, regardless of the distance. Especially when no one is saying behind me "You can do it!"  I believe in myself... and as prideful as that sounds, God has brought me a very long way from where I once was in this area, so it's glory to Him, not to highlight me.

2. I ran slowly today. For a split second, I considered not saving the workout on my running app because of what my average pace/time were. But that lasted for only a split second. I'm not worried about my time. It doesn't matter to me if I run an 8 min mile or a 15 min mile. For me, during this season, all life considered, I am very excited to be getting to do another half marathon again. And that is what matters.

3. I don't always put a spiritual verse with my runs. but I could not get this idea out of my head this morning. So, along with my "Run with your heart when your legs get tired" mantra, I want to apply this verse, too. Not just to my runs, but to my every day life in the course of the next 2 weeks specifically.
 Message version
 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs. one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes nd fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping , telling everyone else about it and then missing out myself. "

 I am not just training myself physically and mentally to run this race, but I am training spiritually every day to be a better me. And running just happens to be a part of that.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Running Thoughts

Today I take you on a trail through my brain of my running thoughts... literally.

 I wrote back in July that I would be setting out to train for a fall race, although I was uncertain during that time which race it would be. I had to get through putting our own event on before I could determine what the schedule would allow. Well, this week, I signed up for the Columbus Nationwide Children's Half Marathon, October 15, and I am super excited!

 Which leads me to my trail of thoughts for today.

 I have been running now for 9 years. Of those 9 years, I was accumulating 2-3 half marathons a year. However, last year, I was only able to complete 1. So as I enter into this event, just 3 weeks away, it has been a year for me since having completed a half marathon. For me, that is significant. A year is a long time to "pause" something I so enjoy. I have filled it with plenty of other activities, and I have never quit running, but I am really looking forward to completing this event.

 I am a goal setter. I always have been. I can't help it. and when one goal finishes, I am generally launching into the next one. I try hard to balance this, but it is just who I am. Goals help me grow, help me evaluate and help me dig deeper into the inner strengths I have that only pushing myself brings out to the fullest. And running races does that for me. I have said it multiple times, but while the accomplishment of finishing a race is always an amazing feeling, it's truly the journey of the training that is what teaches me, what reshapes me. And this time is no different. I am sure as I approach the race, I will share more, but while this summer/fall has been full of busy events, this training journey plays a role. Only now it's finally coming into play.

 When the form is signed and I "check out" of registration, the training gets all the more real. I don't run to win, I run to have fun. I don't win to compete against the others, I compete against myself. I have abandoned the term "slow" because who defines that anyway? And I have learned to embrace every step for what the journey is. And every step sheds a little more of the past and draws me into the future forward.

 So, this morning as I was out on my 9 mile run, my thoughts were all over then place. I spent time praying for my Colombian friends. I thought about how much I learned over this last year in the marathon world. I tossed some ideas for some upcoming 5K events I am involved with. and I process all that I'm learning. But my friend Danielle gave me a bondi band (seriously, these things are awesome! simple headband but with inspirational or funny sayings on them. And you know me, I can't pass up these inspirational sayings. Plus they hold the hair out of the face and cover the ears even on cooler mornings!) Anyway. the point is, I discovered my mantra for my upcoming race. That tends to happen randomly, too.

 But she got me one that says "run with your heart when your legs get tired."

 I know that this upcoming half will not be a PR for me. But I am definitely running with my heart. And especially I will be doing that when my legs get tired. So, therein lies my mantra for the  next few weeks. After all, running is just as much heart as it is muscles and legs. If it were not, many of us would not be doing it.

 I'm coming out of a season of being in the world of planning the marathon. Now it's my turn to run one again. I have listened to inspiring stories the last week, have met people who have become friends and have seen some wonderful accomplishments for other runners. The heart was there. And now it's my turn again.

 In 3 weeks.

 And I can't wait to see what the rest of the 3 weeks will bring in this journey.

 Run with your heart...
    I do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The 21st Air Force Marathon

Last Saturday the 21st Air Force Marathon took place. To be a part of it each year gives me a lot of pride. To put it into words for me is sometimes a challenge. Colombia plays a huge role in my life. But each year, so does the Air Force Marathon. It reshapes me, teaches me, challenges me, pushes me, grows me and strengthens me in ways I never expect and often times don't understand until I watch it all unfold.
 I cannot always divulge the details or even express all that stirs my soul through the year of planning, but I want to share a little bit here today. Because as much as running is a part of me, as much as I am a mom and a wife and a friend and a daughter, the Air Force Marathon is a part of me, too.
It does not define me, nor does it offer my identity. Nor will it be my life forever. But it is a part of me, a part of my growth and a part of my story. And so I must share.
 Last Saturday we watched it unfold in a few hours what we planned for months (literally.) The blood (that might be a little dramatic), the sweat (there's truth to that one), and the tears (I admit this is not a metaphor, but for me, they happen.) all played out in 12 hours' time. Or 3 days if you count the expo, which is just as much a part of the experience for me as race day is.

 For me, at the expo, my role is to help the runners, to solve the problems they need fixed. Most people, when I tell them that, say sarcastically 'lucky you.' But honestly, I do count it a privilege to be in that role. For me, I love to help others. It's not about recognition. It's about truly making a difference. That probably seems dramatic and even silly; after all, we are talking about a race... how dramatic can it be?! But honestly, there was this one guy I helped out and he walked away saying "Thanks for being so nice!" And I thought to myself, we live in a strange world that people say thanks for being nice. I'm simply being me.
 I'm not wanting to promote myself here. I'm simply wanting to share some little glimpses into the stories of the weekend for me.
 I love getting to meet the runners with whom I have talked all year long.
 I enjoy seeing the first timers' faces full of excitement and awe and nervousness. I remember being there myself once. It's overwhelming and exciting all at once.
 I am in my element and it is in these moments I find new strength in who I am. I learn more about myself, what pushes me and how to stand up to those things or people or how much I can handle or new ways to navigate challenging moments. I grow.
  I love when return runners come once year and I get to see them again the next and it's like a little family reuniting for a few moments.
 I laugh with Lisa and take selfies with Danielle when we can catch a second.

 When race day comes I get butterflies. (If I have butterflies, imagine how my boss, the director, feels.)  We work so hard as a team all year long to see this one day unfold and want to see it go smoothly and perfectly. My role on race day has been different every year I have been there. My first year, I was mostly in the information tent, and a little in the food tent. My second year, I had learned more and oversaw the MAJCOM Challenge, so I spent time moving between their tent and the food tent and the timing tent and the information tent, doing a little bit of what everyone needed. Last year, my third race, I drove the lead vehicle, which allowed me to see the course in a different way, still also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge. And then this year, I was on the lift, as a spotter for the lead runners, announcing their approach to the finish line, as well as also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge again.  Each year, I've been given the opportunity to learn new aspects of the race, how things work. I have a pretty unique role, one that allows me to be mentored in just about every aspect of what takes place in our event.
 The point isn't to bore you with the details of what I do in my job. The point is that life is about learning and growing and my job provides me a lot of joy but also a lot of growth. I have a great mentor, who has taught me more than one blog could begin to sum up, who has become my friend along the way. he's cheered me on, pushed me, been lovingly honest with me and taught me so much about the industry and about life. I have met countless people who have touched me and inspired me and spurred me forward in my journey. I've encountered some who have challenged me through their personality and stretched me to speak my voice in new ways and learn aspects of myself I have struggled to know how to express (meaning, the side of confrontation).

 And this year's event was no different. I met new friends (Krystal and Emily), saw old ones (Ed, Annelise, Nick, Paul, Liz), worked with people who somehow have become a little family to me even though I only see them once a year (Josh, David, Glen, Alex, Amanda.) and got to experience new race-day roles.

 I am thankful for my job. Being in event planning is a challenge at times, and never ceases to amaze me every single year how we spend months putting it all together, planning, preparing, designing, meeting, etc... and in a few hours time watch all of that play out and then tear it all down to start over again for another year. It's thrilling and somehow heartbreaking all at once.

 Each year it makes me a better, stronger me in new ways, compiled with my other life experiences. Running does that for me, my Colombian family does that for me, and my Air Force family (even though I'm civilian) does that for me. And I am thankful for this beautiful experience.
 Here are some photos to show you some of my favorite moments of the weekend.

So Proud of these ladies, my new friends, who both took home awards! They inspire me

Team ANG, defending MAJCOM Challenge 2016 champions

The Full marathons of the ANG team

My new friend, Krystal

Prepping for the 2017 Expo to open

Old friends, Ed and Annelise

Me and Liz

The Expo

The finish line shoot, before the gun went off, as the sun rises


The flyover

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Little Things

The reality for me today as I sit and write is that I have had a crazy, chaotic, phenomenal week and my head and heart are processing those details and lessons and memorable moments.
 So as I work through that, I want to share in the midst of that some of the little moments that bring me smiles and will continue to do so for weeks to come, just as do the other little moments.

 1. When it's 7 am, I didn't sleep much because I can't shut off my  brain and I'm grabbing some quick things from the office on the way to do marathon expo set up and my co-worker calls to say he left a coffee on the desk for me. And a large one at that.

2. When you have a friend who is sweet enough and close enough I feel comfortable to ask to go pick up my prescription because I simply can't make it there and she gladly takes time out of her day to do so (...and come with a coffee in hand as well! ) (side note.. I might like coffee a little too much )

3. Hugs upon hugs from friends I only get to see once a year who have become a little family to me.

 4. Candy Corn White Chocolate M&Ms. Strange, but so deliciously good for a sweet treat.

5. Good friends I can count on when I need help... and new willing ones to jump in

6. Foggy, cool mornings

7. Seeing the sun rise

8. Sunglasses. For many years I didn't have these because of my eye glasses. This year I spent the money to get a pair of good prescription sunglasses and I am so thankful for them!

9. These girls... They make me laugh sometimes til my sides hurt and they hug me if I cry and we work together as an incredible team.

10. Getting a text when I'm exhausted and hot and thirsty to tell me there's an iced coffee waiting for me, and I was completely not expecting that. (again with the coffee... lol... it's so simple and yet brings me so much joy, and likely more so when it comes as an unexpected surprise)

11. Quiet Sunday afternoons with perfect weather for a little time in the hammock.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricanes and Life

I do not usually follow all the news stories because I get tired of the opposing viewpoints, the opinions and the negativity. However, I have diligently been following the stories of Hurricane Irma.
I have a lot of very good friends who live in Florida, as that was once my home too, for 7 years. So I have been watching their activity, following the storm and keeping up with what has been happening with it.
My kids have also been quite interested in its events as well, asking quite a bit of questions. They don't remember, but they have lived through a couple of doozie hurricanes themselves. But I remember well those storms.
 Elizabeth was 2 and Joseph was only 4 months old. We chose to stay. From experience, let me tell you that trying to evacuate a state that is going crazy over the approaching storms is just as ridiculous as those from the outside would say trying to stay in the storm is. Both come with risks. We got hit with the effects of 4 storms that fall, but 2 were doozies in our city. The first, Hurricane Frances came rolling in just after labor day. In florida, the temperatures at that time are no joke. It's hot and it's humid. We weathered the storm at our in-laws and came home to assess the damage a day or 2 after it passed. We lost power and branches and there were other minor inconveniences, but we "weathered" the storm alright. Another storm came rolling in behind that one not long after Frances. Hurricane Jeanne came in, and she came as a direct hit to our city. We also chose to stay for that one. We stayed at a friend's home, who had a generator, as many of us were still without power at that time from the first hit.
 I've never really sat and described the experience  (I was not a blogger at that time). It's one of those things hard to put to words. The house is completely dark. Shutters cover every window and every door, so it's a really strange experience because it feels like the middle of the night, but it's really the middle of the day. When you lose power and everything is covered, it's very easy to lose track of what time it is. Joseph, a typically very happy baby, was miserable in the heat with no air (our friends had not activated the generator yet, as we waited for the storm to pass.) The winds were wicked, as you could hear them whipping against the shutters and tossing things around outdoors. We did our best to make a party out of the storm.
When the eye of the storm passed over, it was the weirdest time. They call the eye of the storm the calm, and it is. It gets completely quiet. The wind goes away. The sun comes out. The men decided that was a good time to go outside for a quick check of what's happening. It felt like it was over. But we knew that the second half was yet to come. The experience was unforgettable.


 The point is not really to tell you the story about my hurricane experience. The point is that all of this hurricane talk lately has not only made me recall my experiences, but it has also brought with it thoughts about life's storms. (Call that the writer in me, or maybe just how God helps me learn.)

Life is messy sometimes. We get storms of our own that threaten to beat us down or change our way of life. Some storms threaten us in more powerful ways than others. And some seasons, we have more than one "hit" to our life. In fact, sometimes it feels like the hits just don't stop.
 I am not good at explaining to people who ask why God would allow such tragedies (be it in regards to death, cancer, divorce, job loss.. or hurricanes, fires, wars...) But I can explain what i have learned,  sharing how regardless of tragedies, I know that God is always there. I know that even when tragedy strikes, God is still in control. I know that, if I allow Him, He will use the storms to transform me into a stronger woman - a better Rachael, a stronger daughter of the King, a woman to be used by Him. But sometimes I have to look back at the storms of the past to remember how He has done that for me before so that I can keep pressing forward through the storm of today.

 There is a song that says "In the eye of the storm, You remain in control. In the middle of the war, You guard my soul. You alone are my anchor, when the sails are torn. Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm."
 You can listen to the song here

 Life can be tough sometimes (understatement.) But I can use these every day life experiences to remind me just the same of how He is in control.

 By the way, we lost some pieces of our roof and had to get it replaced, we were without power for 2+ weeks, but we survived the direct hit that year, as well as the other storms that affected us in those surrounding weeks. Which reminds me that when the storms come, He will be there; and in the end, I know it will be ok.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What I learned this Summer

I am linking up with Emily Freeman today and talking about what I learned this summer. It has been a beautiful summer and it has gone way too fast. Here are a few things I have taken in during these months.

1. The son of a tiger comes out painted.

 That is a new phrase I like, and it is to say: Your child looks a lot like you. It was said to me when I shared this photo of me and Elizabeth.

 When I was told the phrase, I did not understand it. It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but now I love it. There are all kinds of these phrases that exist to make explanations for hundreds of scenarios. We say a lot The apple doesn't fall far from the tree... I like this way of talking.

 2. Kintsugi

 I am in love with this art. I learned about this when discussing some of my life, and a friend shared with me a series her pastor was doing at church, using Kintsugi art as the example. Broken pieces of pottery made even more beautiful by fixing them back together with gold. The cracks are evident, but so beautifully displayed.
 We are like that. We are broken in a lot of ways. We all have stories for our lives that have hurt places or cracks. But  we don't have to hide those cracks. God fills them in with His love, His gold. This art is beautiful. For many reasons.

 3. Lake Baptisms are really special

 Maybe because it was the first time for me to see one. Or maybe because something about it felt akin to the baptisms of the Bible. No, there is not special water and a baptism in a pool or a tank or giant tub is no different. But I found it beautiful. This was a first for our church to do.

 4. Cheez- Its are my guilty pleasure

 I have discovered my favorite "go to" when needing to crash a craving is cheese its (and orange soda.) Yes, I know, both snacks go against all my healthy habits, but come on, we all have this! I think this comes from my childhood, which dawned on me one afternoon when I was being made fun of for my indulgence against my normal healthy habits. (does it even count that I choose diet orange soda??) Well, anyway, as a child, when we would travel on a road trip, we didn't stop at places for meals too often, we packed our food and snacks. Including all our drinks. I realized that cheese its and orange soda were often in that grouping of snacks. Maybe there is a correlation? I don't know, but if you ever want to know the way to my heart.... these small snacks will win some points ;)

 5. I like Soccer

 Maybe this is the Latin culture influence on me. Perhaps so. I played this sport as a little girl, but really only because I enjoyed being involved. I was actually terrible at it! But I have come to really enjoy watching these games or at least catching the recaps. I didn't think I cared for the sport, but... I have discovered I do.

 6. I love to be creative.

 There are more forms to art than just drawing. Writing is one. But I have discovered other little things I like to do. Like making cards (Thank you, Paula) or scrapbooking. Not your typical Creative Memories scrapbooks, but there are other forms of scrapbooking. I am not going to ever be recognized for being a great artist in this sense, but I find it enjoyable and relaxing. And there is not really a right or wrong to it.

7. I do not have a particular style. 
  See the many sides of me.
 The farm girl with muddy boots; the runner; the lady who likes to dress up. the beach girl in me with flip flops. I used to think that a person should have a style... a sort of way to define themselves, I guess. But I kind of like that I don't. (And also, I think that people having a certain style may be a societal misconception.) It just depends when you catch me which side or style of me you will find.

8. Kola Román

 This red soda is delicious. I suppose you could compare it to red creme soda, but even that is not quite the right description. The point is, it's a Colombian soda I discovered on this trip that I had not tried the previous year and I loved it. Perhaps I can find it in Jungle Jims, should I ever make the trip that way.

9. Giving speeches is not scary
 I ended with an A in my summer speech class. I was so excited about this! I learned a lot of little techniques and I can't say I enjoy getting up in front of others (I don't really like the attention centered on me) but I can say I enjoyed the process of how it helped me grow. 

 The next few months will be full of more lessons, no doubt. I am in a mathematics class and a sociology class, so I am certain there will be many lessons that stem just from those. Our race we work for all year long is two weeks away and there will be fall travel. I am excited to see what more will come my way in lessons learned. Lessons learned= growth. And growth= a better me! 
 One day at a time....

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Little Moments

 This week, in my little moments, I found laughter in between my moments of (perhaps admittedly exhausted tearful times...I can't help it, I'm a crier.)  And here is what brought smiles:

 1. A funny math professor.
       Classes started up again this week, and for the first time, I am on campus for one of my classes. I do not like math. At all. And the title alone of this class scares me off a little - Quantitative Reasoning. But, the professor is funny. He's not even trying to be, he just is so animated in his expressions and his stories. And wow is he intelligent. He doesn't even bat an eye at numbers and rattles off things while all of us look at eachother like "He didn't even think about that, he just knew." I suppose that is what makes him the professor. It's a lot of group work, and it's going to be an interesting semester. But I think the class will be survivable with this professor. He's excited about what he does. That makes a difference!

 2. Making cards with my best friend.
  She's so creative. and she's such a great listener. And she's so patient. And I am blessed to have her as my best friend. We live an hour apart, but we try to get together every month at least. This month we got together and made cards. She's so good at that (by the way, she also mails me cards consistently, which make me smile). But we had fun learning how to make cards from her. (Elizabeth joined in on the endeavor.)

 3. Running Stairs.
  How, do you ask, is running stairs a "little moment" in my week? Well, I know that either hill training or speed work ought to be part of my training regime. But I am not good at doing that because, well, quite frankly, I do not like it. So when my girlfriend called me up and said "Let's do stair workouts" I groaned inwardly, but hugged her as we finished. Hard work outs kind of suck. But... they also kind of feel awesome. And at the end, my legs were jello, but we have made a new routine out of this. And I am kind of excited to see where it leads. And... to have a buddy to do it with.

 4. New Friends
  I love meeting people. Of course I don't become best buddies with everyone I meet. But I am thankful for the circles into which I get introduced and how each and every person brings a different story to the table. We all shape each other, really, in some way or another. But in my Math class, we work in groups. So I am getting to know a whole new group of people, different ages, different goals, different stories. I love seeing how we are all made up. I specifically connect with Monica, who sits in the first row of the classroom and I sat myself next to her and we laugh at the professor's antics, we discuss our work lives, we both have kids, we are both moms working towards a degree. It's pretty cool.

 5. Beautiful Sunrises
 It's that time of year where the time of the sunrise is beginning to shift. and usually this happens in the middle of my morning runs. And I love watching the sun come up.The colors of the sky changing, the warmth of the sun's rays rising above the dawn-kissed morning.

 6. Nature
 Nature is my favorite way to connect with God. And just feel... free and happy. It's also the time of year on my morning runs when a lot more critters are out. The deer jumped back into the woods as I approached yesterday. What a beautiful animal, really. The weather is in that in between stage, and while I am not at all ready to say goodbye to summer warmth, the cooler mornings are also somehow refreshing- a reminder of the beauty that change can bring.

 7. Good Books
 I love to read. I spend a lot more time now in text books than I do in recreational books, but I still try to find time to read little bits. I enjoy all genres and all authors. But I love to read and learn or immerse myself in a story. I'm currently reading an autobiography by a famous Colombian author and it's fascinating and adding to my knowledge of their culture. I enjoy a good story which also helps me learn.

 8. Peanut Butter
  I don't think that needs a lot of elaboration, and yes, I know it's random. But peanut butter is delicious. :) And it makes me happy. Especially a good PBJ sandwich!

 Sometimes random, sometimes making no sense to others, My little moments help make me take in stride the other moments that can at times feel overwhelming. I am so thankful that I have a lot of these mixed in with the others. No, it does not mean life is perfect. But it means life is being lived.
 One day at a time. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 1 Training

With every good intention of being on track with my training again, life has thrown curve balls that have made for some difficulties already in my week one.
 Fasting required by blood work, which in the end was a bust and turned into returning a second day in the week after fasting again made it so I missed two morning workouts. I could have done something, but when routine parts of the workout call for the morning coffee, let me just say that at 4:30 a.m. without that cup of coffee to get going, the morning exercise is made far more difficult!  And early morning at work also threw that routine off. So, week one has started out with a lot of interruptions. The trick is that as these interruptions are only going to continue to be in my path, finding ways around the "excuses" and just pushing through any and all of that one way or another.
 there is always an answer, it's just a matter of figuring out the best answer for that particular day.

 So, onward I will press with the endeavor. Weather has never been a thing to stop me. And unless I'm really sick, that doesn't tend to stop me, either. But at this season in my life, with school, the busy season of work, juggling some various things at home... I admit that not having coffee at 4:30 in the morning before I run was a show stopper. I may have found my weak spot! ;)

 But this morning all of that faded away as I laced up while the others in my house still slept. One cup of coffee in me, I was ready to go. Determined and looking forward to knocking out a solid 5. Seems minimal compared to what I have done in the past , but considering the surrounding events, I was truly looking forward to me, the open air and my feet on the pavement. The ground was wet with rain, and the steam rose up from the grass as the cool rain met the heat of the day and rose up to greet me good morning. And as I stepped out the door, I smiled.

 I love to run. Nevermind my pace or what my week was or wasn't. For me, it isn't about first place, 534th place or last place. It's about clearing my mind. It's about feeling free. It's about the accomplished feel of sweat. It's about the fact that running represents moving forward.
 As I was only a mile in to the run when I thought about how much I've missed these training runs. For me, it's not about what place I am in or who or what is ahead of or behind me. For me, running is a representation of pressing forward. I am working towards a goal. And I am quite goal oriented. I am pushing forward towards my future with my schooling, regardless of the obstacles in my way. I continue to pursue dreams in spite of the naysayers. And I run forward, looking ahead, not behind. I look towards the goals, not backwards at the difficulties. Although it is good to reflect on progress and how far I have come, looking forward is where the hope is. And running is a representation of that.
 I nearly forgot how good it feels. Training for a race is hard some days, just like going to school or spiritually growing or trying to lose weight or change a bad habit. But the rewards in the end, and even in the process, are so beautiful. Because training, running, pushing... it's about moving forward, one step at a time.
 I love my morning long runs.

 This little quote seemed to sum it best for me. So, as I press forward in my races, in my schooling (semester begins again on Monday!) and in all my other endeavors... I am thankful for how far I have come and where I have yet to go.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Feeding Program in Colombia

I promised I had not finished my stories from Colombia, so I return to one this week, long awaited by my friend, Barb, who will be mentioned often in this post.

 Currently there is a team there in Brisas right now. I was invited to attend, but had to decline the invitation for various reasons this time around. To not go was very difficult for me, as those people have become a large part of my life. But the team was gracious to me, and allowed me several ways to still participate and be part of what they were doing through helping to write lessons and collect items to bless the women. I cannot wait to hear how their trip goes, as this particular team is doing more of a focus on teaching and discipling  the community and even the surrounding communities pastors, more than on the focus of the construction.

 But I am off track. I want to go back to Brisas and tell you about the Food program.

When we attended in 2016, we learned about the food program the village hosts. This program is provided/funded by the church, and allows for children in the village who do not have enough food to eat lunch to come to the cabana and be provided a meal by the church. This program is honestly beautiful. What a ministry! The problem was that in 2016, we learned that there was a lack of funding and so the program would dissipate and only be able to feed minimal amounts of the children.

 Enter Barb Benson. Barb was on my team that year and she fell in love with these kids and when we returned home, she took on this program. Barb quilts (beautiful quilts!) and she began fundraising for this program by raffling and selling her quilts. Led by her, others in her church got on board by helping donate bits each month to this cause, and for the last year and a half, Barb's efforts have been a large part of what has kept this program going.

 Barb returned with the team in June and she got to see how her dollars and efforts had been put to work. You could see her heart and passion as the kids would show up each day (M-F) for their lunches. I was generally in a different vicinity when this was taking place, but one day I did get to sit and be a part of the program. Pastor Javier, new to the community in January, had done some things with organizing the order of the kids checking in and making a system so that when they don't show up for a few days in a row, he then goes into their homes to check on them, etc. The one day I was able to help out,  as I checked in the kids one by one during this time, in between the moments of interacting with the kids, I was able to do a little translating between him and Barb, as Barb asked questions and shared some of her concerns and dreams, he answered and shared some of his dreams and visions with it, too. Watching Barb's passion in this event was inspiring.

 She loves those kids as if they are her own.

 Ashely and Emma and Cindy did a lot to serve the kids and help with the food during this time too. Barb has a huge heart for this program and came home with more determinations and dreams to keep fueling the program. It was really neat to see how her efforts have helped the program grow. You don't have to be a missionary in another country to make a difference there. It was so clear how she had made a difference there with her efforts here in Ohio. But how cool she got to see those efforts firsthand in June.

 At the end of the trip, I got to take place in a cool event with Barb. One of Barb's concerns as she watched the lunches take place through the week, was the state of the kitchen tools, utensils, pots, etc. And so with discussions with the various leaders in the church, it was determined she would go to a store in the city when we returned to the city to buy what the kitchen most needed as part of her efforts to help that food program. So the ladies of the kitchen made a list. I actually was not totally aware of this.
 But when we left the village, I spent the first half of the drive with Mileth quietly reflecting, sometimes crying, but really soaking in the last moments. I was in my own world a little bit. But we always make a stop half way between the village and the city, when we hit this little "gas station" to use the restroom and get snacks the Bishop approached me (who spoke only Spanish). I had honestly forgotten that he was in a vehicle behind our bus. And he asked me to ride in the car with him and Barb to help translate. Juan, the week's translator, needed to be with the team and the bus driver. But I got to have the special privilege to go with the Bishop and Barb... and then Chris, too, who wanted to buy tools for the construction site. For me, this was a moment I won't forget. Nothing monumental took place, per say, but for me it was just a little more confirmation in my journey. But also it was so cool to go into this IKEA like store in the city, with the Bishop and Barb and Chris, and get to take a small part in gathering up all these items for the village. Barb was having a lot of fun seeing the cart fill up with things the kitchen needed. Bishop was seemingly having fun bargain hunting for the needed items (and he was rather good at it.) And Chris had a good time in the tools, doing a lot of sign language and such with the workers since I was not there to translate for him. 

 By the end of the trip, Barb had a full cart and a full heart. And I had a lot of fun, even though I really did nothing. Just seeing the joy filled me. Barb has made a lasting impact on that little village. The food program has grown and it was a beautiful moment to be a part of it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back in Training

It has been some time since I wrote about my running or my exercise habits. So, just as it is time to get back into training better, it is time to share about that realm of life again too. Because when I train, I always learn about myself.

 This weekend I sat down and planned out the next several weeks for training for my fall race. While I have never quit my running this summer, it wasn't my focus. I didn't have any races planned and when you take a trip outside of the country, it really does shift your perspective. Again, not that my exercise or running wasn't important still, it just wasn't my focus.
 But I have put my training hat back on and am gearing up towards my fall race. When I left off in the Spring discussing my training (Yikes! Has that much time passed?) I was left with the lesson that I will not say the word Slow.

 And so I pick up where I left off. Of course not focusing on my distance has left me in a place that my pace is what it is. But really, that is just fine with me. I am happy to be working towards a goal again. I love goals. :) They make me ... me. And I really  enjoy doing races, and so I am looking forward to participating in them again. I've missed it. Each training leg I do tends to bring on lessons of life with it. I can't wait (Dare I say that?) to see what will be in store over the next couple of months.
 Of course, I always wonder to myself about my fall races because fall is a bit of a crazy time with my job at its peak and this fall, with my classes, for the first time I am going to take one on campus and not just online. So, ready or not, bring it on!

 The start is always the easiest in some ways, as my body just knows and is used to 3 and 4 mile runs. It's also the hardest as I push back into my routines. But running clears my head. It relaxes me, even if when I get up at 4:30 I am tired. It energizes me to move through my day. And it helps me feel better all around.

 It isn't about my pace. It isn't about the medal on the finish line or the shirt that comes with participating. It isn't about a name or a win. It's about me continuing to be a better me.
  So, slowly but surely.
      So, ready, set, go! Pressing on towards the goal....

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Little Moments

It has been some time since I have written one of my "little moments" post. There is no better time than the present! Having a fresh perspective on life and priorities makes one see all those little moments all the more. Here are a few from the last few weeks...

1. Beautiful new friendships with people in another country. I am so blessed to have some people I can call on to be in my corner here, but also in another country, in another language. They make me smile.

2. A very nice 35 birthday. Last week I turned 35 and now I enter into a new year. I always love those fresh starts. I don't know what this year will hold, but every year I am finding  I am growing more and learning more and becoming a stronger me. I am blessed. And... I got some pretty awesome cards and love from special people on my day. 

3. Running. I have not blogged a lot about that lately- don't worry- it's coming soon! But as I begin to gear up again for the fall races, I am thankful for that outlet and my health to do so. 

4. Pictures. Spend much time with me and you will learn I take a lot of photos! Photos capture the memories and I am so thankful to have them on the days I need a smile or a reminder.

5. A picture of love and sacrifice. I am not going to go into great detail on this one, but every now and then I get this glimpse of someone willing to sacrifice greatly for my greater good and it's something I hold on to without taking it for granted.

6. My siblings. I am forever thankful for them. My brother came to town recently and we had a wonderful time hanging out. And then I got to go visit my sister for a day and we enjoyed time laughing and sharing. My older brother, while quite busy, and I share a love of coffee and enjoy conversations over cups of joe. We all happen to be born in July, too, so we have had some special moments this month together.

 7. My job. How often do we take our income and our job for granted? Or go through the motions of "just needing to work" . I am like everyone else and have my days I will complain, but honestly, I have been so blessed in my work. I love what I do. I have a great boss and good coworkers. My job has allowed me to meet so many people from all different walks of life. And my job provides for my family. I am thankful for this and it has not gone beyond me in the last couple of months what this blessing is. 

8. No TV. Ever gone a few weeks without TV? It's been a recent experiement, for lack of a better word, in our home, and I have been loving it. It won't last, but during these weeks the evenings have been filled with scrapbooking, games, conversations with my kids, reading, and lots of writing. (not blogs, per say, but writing in general.) That can be done with the TV on, but it isn't the same. It's been refreshing for me. 

9. Concerts and Conversations. I thoroughly enjoyed going to an outdoor concert recently with my friend Ginifer. We laughed and cried and talked and sang and it was fun to be carefree for a few hours. 

  Because I have not written these moments out in a while I could make a list a mile long. But we'll start from this one and try to get back to this habit. TGIF my friends! What blessings can you find in the little moments today? 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Colombia... One Month Later

Yesterday marked one month since my arrival back to the states from my trip to Colombia.
 The reality is I could write on and on about this trip. I didn't include the stories about the food program or our day in Cartagena and I could continue this forever. Perhaps I will return to the stories every couple of weeks to keep on sharing. The experiences just sit in my heart and resonate in me. Putting it to words is always a difficult task when the journey has been so monumental.

 My first time there the trip was life changing. This time it was just as much so. I really want to try to put into words for you what I learned and how life has changed for me upon my arrival home, but I am not even sure I can do that adequately.
 The conversations I had while in Colombia and the culture  I took in truly gave me a fresh perspective of who I am and who I want to continue to be and how to view life a little differently. We have a tendency to look through such a narrow lens at times. This trip opened my eyes and heart even wider.
 Here, we focus so easily on things. Our drive often comes from getting to the next best thing in life, whether that's a job, a car, a possession or a place. I have always been a relational person. But I took that in more deeply on this trip. People matter. Love Matters. Relationships matter. We spend so much time bickering over little things or picking at the petty habits or idiosyncracies of others that we lose sight of what matters. Or the focus is on how much money we make or what we do for a job that we don't put time into the things about which we are truly passionate. We get caught up in all these focuses and lose sight of the people and the love in front of us.
 In every activity we did with the community, when we would finish, they made a point of walking around to each of us, hugging us, kiss on the cheek, saying "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you) or telling us they loved us, and we were strangers to them. But they loved us. They have experienced more war and devastation than my blogs could even begin to describe to you, so I have a tendency to leave it out. But in spite of all that, they choose to love. They get it. They aren't perfect people, but they display the concept that so many of us miss..... that life is about loving, not competing. Life is about working together, not bickering or picking. Life is about others, not self.

 There is a Bible verse in 1 Corinthians 13 that the message version words in a way that I really like . 1 Cor 13:3-7 says "If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love."
  That verse comes to mind when I think about my trip to Colombia this time around. Because without love, all those things don't matter.

 I don't mean to get up on a high horse here. I just am saying this is one of the most powerful lessons I walked away with this time. Last year I went and I came home with the different perspective of being grateful for running water and electricity and amenities and a home. And I did learn the power of love there on my last trip as well.
 But the relationships and the conversations and the culture I took in on this journey have been carried home with me in a way that has transformed me. It doesn't make me perfect at this or better than anyone else. It just makes me want to live life a little differently. A little more intentionally.
 Life is about love. It's about getting over ourselves sometimes and investing in others. It's about seeing ourselves as Christ sees us, not as the world wants to tell us we are. It's about crying together, listening to one another, loving eachother, disagreeing maybe but respecting the differences, and helping eachother be the best version of ourselves we can be.

 As the verse said "I'm bankrupt without love." It's not about money or things or looks or body types. It's about love. And the village of Brisas taught me that on a deeper level than I have seen in a long time. A people with nothing who love with everything.
 Our first night there, they sang their national anthem and then played ours for us to sing. Then they braided the colors of our flags together. They were blending two cultures as one because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. That is love. That is what life is about.

 So, one month from the time I have left that little village, I have been sorting through learning these lessons. I have been processing the many conversations and experiences and putting them into my every day life in new ways. I have grown in a monumental way through these people, this trip that can't quite be articulated into words. Life is not all roses and rainbows, and it isn't for the people there either by any means.  But simple acts of love can go a very long way.

 I close by just sharing a few of my very favorite snapshots from this trip. There really are more stories to go around, but in time....
This girl... Love her. We laughed so much. 

Me and Gin, Eating Mamón. So delicious. 

Eating Mango, not so gracefully. 

Me and Mileth. Love this girl. 

Me and Tía.

Me and Pastor Javier

I love these girls!

It's the little things, like wearing our gloves...

Part of the team at Alto de Julio

Juan, mi hermano.

The team in front of the clinic, right before departure.

I love this photo of us with the youth

Me, Miguel and Mileth