A Little Scratching. A Little Cleaning. A Little Focus.

Travel is done for a bit now.  Coming off of our Honduras trip was like coming back from the moon.  It took time to re-acclimate to life in Idaho.  I was in a little bubble for about a week..NOW,  it’s time to get down to business again.  Running business.  Training business.

I decided late last week to officially scratch from Ironman Lake Stevens in July.  Tough decision, being I have never missed a race.  (I take that back…one sprint Tri several years ago, due to incredible sickness…the kind of sickness that we won’t speak of)  Here’s the deal…life sometimes throws a curve ball, in this case, it was ALOT of travel and fun…and not enough training time.  That’s fine.  I mean…I really can’t complain about the travel.  Could I have raced Lake Stevens??  Yes!  ***But, for me, at the risk of a possible injury.  I don’t know.  It would’ve been ugly, and I just felt that it was really in my best interest to let it go.  I have to be smart, and train smart.  So I withdrew and will race it another year.

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I took 4 days this week while my Wiley Coyote of a daughter was at Track and Field Camp at WSU to absolutely de-clutter every closet in my house!  That’s a lot of closets. (You have NO idea)  The purging of the closets, was so cleansing for me.  In a way that I didn’t expect.  I was sad and had my head hanging about Lake Stevens….and then as the un-needed stuff <read crap> came out of the closets, and I saw these fresh, clean, organized spaces, I thought….this is JUST what I needed.  De-cluttering of the mind.  Trip after trip to the trash, Goodwill, the dump….until it was all gone.  My closets are clean, my head-space is clear, and I have a fresh, new, outlook for a race plan.  I needed to kick that old race away.  I have.  And I feel good about it.  Refreshed!

So, back to training.  Running!  With occasional cross-training with my girls.  “Occasional” meaning, most swim and bike days.  But my focus has tilted and I am ready to start my new training plan for a Fall marathon.  If I pick up a few 5 or 10K’s along the way, so be it.  I am considering a couple different ones, Portland Marathon and Tri Cities Marathon.  Both in October, both look and sound like a great time!  Neither I have done before!  New races make me excited!

Monday, I am back at it.  I have been scouring over training plans.  I have done this before, but ya never know what kind of nugget you will pull out of various plans.  By Sunday night, the plan will be set, and Monday will be D-Day!

D-Day |ˈdi ˌdeɪ|noun the day• the day on which an important operation is to begin or a change to take effect: 

I’m looking forward to being back on a training plan.  I guess I don’t function well without one.  It’s such an internal fight for me…not wanting to be tied down to a “plan” but knowing that I need a focus.  That’s how I succeed.  That’s the type of person I am, and how I roll.   And I know if I “fail to plan, then I should plan to fail!”

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It was kind of ironic this afternoon when I went to pick up Wiley-Coyote from camp.  We had an “end of camp” pow-wow, and one of the coaches addressed the campers and parents.  Wow did he have some great stuff to say.  Sitting there, I got SO pumped that I wanted to jump out of my chair.  It was the final motivation for me.  He even talked about Olympic track and field athletes that were set up for greatness and things didn’t end up so great, and that sometimes in life, this happens.  It’s what you do about it after that makes a huge difference.  This is so true.  I could sit and beat myself up about missing this 70.3 or I could clean and sharpen the lens and Find the focus!

Monday….I Run!!

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The Build

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Our Amazing Build Team

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Tuesday through Friday were dedicated to building.  I had no idea how this was going to work…being I have never built a single thing…especially a house!!  This amazed me, but I knew that God put us here and would equip us with the needed skills.

We got to the build site, and it was a flat foundation.  We were literally starting from the ground up.  Our lumber had not been delivered, so we had a while to chat and get to know our wonderful Honduran builders who were there to help us out.  It was interesting to see all of us, so…. flexible, about not having the wood when we got to the job site.  We had been prepped for this.  Hondurans, and I think the whole of Central America is…shall we say…on their own time.  You really have to go with the flow, and if you are a punctual, Type-A person, this might bend your nerves.

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As we waited, the kids of the neighborhood started to emerge, checking out the “gringos.”  They were precious.  So loving and sweet, with huge smiles and hearts to match.  We had brought treats to share with them.  Candy, gum, bubbles.  And they ate it up.

We had some time to interact with a few ladies living within the neighborhood, and I was amazed at the faith of these people.  They have nothing of material means, but are so rich in a million other ways.  We heard great stories of how God has provided so much for them.  Their smiles and heir thankfulness was astounding!  They have faith like I’ve never experienced.

It was incredible to see and hear of the physical miracles that God has provided for this area of the country.  A well that has pure water, when ALL of the surrounding wells are contaminated below the dump.  How unbelievable!!  But that’s our God!  He’s up for the unbelievable!

As the day went on we started building.  It was amazing to see our team move together in unity.  Each of us, taking a job, from carrying lumber to the site, learning to use a hammer to nail boards, using a saw for the first time, measuring (NOT my forte’) framing doors, windows, putting up siding or playing with the sweet niños who were surrounding us all day.  We all tried things we have never done before.  Our Honduran friends were great at allowing us to try as they got the giggles a few times watching us.

On our first day at work, we managed to get up all four walls, framed, and three sided.  WOW!!  Can you say, we work well together?  As the days went on, we felt more and more comfortable in our environment.  We laughed a lot, and were so thankful everyday for cooler temperatures (even a little rain) we learned about one another as we worked, and formed an amazing bond with our Honduran friends that will last a lifetime.  The kids became more and more familiar with us, as we learned their names.  They would come running every morning to see us and the ones that were in school, we looked forward to seeing in the afternoon.  Personally for me, this was one of my favorite things.  I have such a heart for children, and always have.  There were so many conversations with these sweeties, that neither of us had any idea what the other was saying…their English is non-existent, and my Spanish is muy malo!!  But somehow, there was this transcendence between us that made it all work out.  We laughed, and had the best time taking pictures, blowing bubbles and eating candy.  They loved helping us as we built.  Helping us carry wood, and sometimes nailing a few nails.  They acted goofy, just like kids do, and I was happy that they were so willing to allow us into their lives.

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Great Team Work (click on photos to enlarge)

After that first day, half of our team was ask to go and work on another project in the neighborhood.  Building a room for another woman, who needed some extra space for herself and her house full of nephews.  Half of the team and half of our Honduran workers left, and I wondered how this would affect the time frame of our house.  God knew we could all handle it, and as we worked on two different projects, it all came together, and both projects were completely finished.

A Gringa and Her Saw

A Gringa and Her Saw

On our last build day, we were full of anticipation to meet the new owners.  We had a few small jobs to finish up on the house, and then were taken down to AFE school for a special treat from the kids…WOW were we surprised to walk into a room full of ALL the students, cheering for us, and embracing us.  They all performed songs and dances for us, by grade, and at the end had us all come up, and ran to us in a giant Hug Attack!  This made me burst into tears!  These kids, who in one short week completely stole my heart, were laughing and hugging every single one of us, all at the same time!  It was incredible.  My heart was bursting with happiness, love and also sadness at the same time, knowing this was our last day to see them.  I took hundreds of pictures, and cannot wait to go back and see as these kids grow year by year.

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These Kids Stole our Hearts (click to enlarge)

The time came for us to go back to the house.  We were going to meet the family, and dedicate the house.  I was full of anticipation and excitement!  As this sweet family crested the hill, I saw them for the first time and my heart leaped out of my chest.  Thank you, God for allowing me a glimpse that first day at AFE….the little girls running up the hill to us, were the very girls that leaped into my arms that very first day that we visited AFE.  Again, little Lucy leaped into my arms, standing outside of her new home.  I could hardly believe it!  What a blessing to us.  We loved on the family as we talked/met their mother, Carmen.  We learned of her story of how she and her 4 girls had been abandoned, and they had been living in a hostile environment with her sister alongside the road, 8 in the small shanty.  She told us that her oldest daughter had told her sister that they would soon get a house….this was BEFORE she actually knew that they were getting a house.  Her sister had been mean-spirited and said, “they would never have a house of their own.”  Her daughter prayed and asked for a house….and that’s where God brought us into the picture.  Our team formed to build this house for them.  As we presented her with a Bible, prayed over her, her children, and their new house, and handed her the keys, I couldn’t hold back my tears of joy.  God is so good to the faithful.  It’s amazing to me, to feel at first we were called to go to Honduras to be a blessing to those in need, and as it turns out, I feel that WE were the ones receiving the blessings a hundred times over.  God taught us so much while we were in Honduras.  Thankfulness in any situation, that He WILL provide exactly what each of us needs, to have giant faith, that He can take any situation and make it extraordinary, that we don’t “need” a lot to be happy and joy-filled, that language and culture are never a barrier if you go in with an open heart, a smile, and God’s love that flows through us.

Our fearless leader.  Thank you for listening to God's prompting to form this team, and your love for Honduras!

Our fearless leader. Thank you for listening to God’s prompting to form this team, and your love for Honduras!

Adore this family and their leadership on this mission.

Adore this family and their leadership on this mission.

Mama and Daughter....and the blond gringa.

Mama and Daughter….and the blond gringa.

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From Framing to House (click to enlarge)

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Our Sweet Family…dedicating her knew house!

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Our Honduran Crew….man did they show us patience!

Being back home has been tough this week.  How do we go back to normal?  I have never experienced having culture shock, coming HOME.  I am again grateful for the night before we left and the meeting we had on how to come home.  We prepare for this trip for a long time, but often don’t think of how it will be coming back home.  We learned that when we come home we could have feelings of guilt.  That after seeing what we saw, being where we were, the experiences we went through, we come home to the familiarity of home, clean water, flushing toilets, clean clothes, our jobs, house, cars, etc to not allow guilt to take over.  We should feel a burden.  Not guilt.  A burden for what we can do….How to respond.  We talked about our emotions, when people say, “How was your trip?” and our reaction when people say, “it looks like a great time” well……..

I know they will never understand.  And that’s ok.

We know that what we have in our country is by God’s design.  He has seen us fit to live where we live and have the lives that we have because He knows we can handle it.  He put us here.

I know that He changed me…and all of us, on this trip.  He grew us in ways that were unexpected and astounding.

I have had on my heart for so long, to do a mission trip and was SO thankful that on our very first night in Honduras, as Greg and I sat and prayed together…in the quiet of our room God said, “Paula, I know the desires of your heart.  I placed them there.”

Beautiful confirmation.

So as we take our time, each of us, to get back to “normal life”, dealing with the shock of being home, may we never lose sight of the changes that were brought upon us, a burden to help those in need, to think of others and not always put ourselves first, to shine God’s love everyday, to have astounding faith in every circumstance.  And to see everyday that we are so blessed.

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After our week of hard work and dedication, we had some great down time.  To laugh, and play and shop.  Eat Pupusas and get hopped-up on phenomenal coffee!  What an incredible  city!  What an amazing country.  What a sensational team!

Sean and Melissa (brother and sister-in-law) after a week of hard work.

Sean and Melissa (brother and sister-in-law) after a week of hard work.
At Valley of the Angels on our day off

At Valley of the Angels on our day off. Best coffee EVER! Think I’m still buzzing from it!

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Girls just wanna have Fun!

Having Our First Pupusas

Having Our First Pupusas

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Yes, I DID eat this....A Lychee.

Yes, I DID eat this….A Lychee.

None of us will forget the HUGE military presence keeping us safe in Tegucigalpa.

None of us will forget the HUGE military presence keeping us safe in Tegucigalpa.

Leaving for Home

Leaving for Home

Mission Day One

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Looking over Tegucigalpa

How can one describe the indescribable? Explain a rainbow of color to one who has never had sight? Or the most beautiful of sounds to one who has never heard a single sound?

Yesterday was our first full day back from Honduras. The sights, sounds and smells of that country and what we experienced is fresh in my mind. My heart is heavy. I have, in a twenty-four hour period, since stepping off of that plane, experienced a hundred different emotions. I feel weighted down and as if someone is sitting on my chest making it difficult to breathe. I have gone from sitting quietly, reflecting, praying, looking at pictures, full of joy, to sobbing, to anger and back again. Having my best friend, the hubster, here to talk with has been my most valuable asset.
I loved all of the well wishes from friends and family yesterday, but honestly couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone, but one. Who I longed to talk to was my team. No one will get me and what I feel, but them. And when checking in on one, I heard she had the same sort of feelings. Like refugees, scattered around our small city, I feel out of place and out of sorts. I am glad on our last night, as we met as a team, we were given “pointers” on how to re-enter. I know what I am feeling is normal, and know that it will be a process to work through. How do you come back to this life in the US, so full of abundance after seeing and experiencing what we did? I am excited to share this amazing journey with you.

On our first day we visited the AFE school. AFE stands for Amor, Fe y Esperanza (Love, Faith and Hope) We toured AFE and heard about its beginning. It’s quite amazing how God can work through the smallest of children to do something so huge in a country. We learned how one visit to the trash dump in Tegucigalpa prompted a tiny girls heart to help an entire population stricken by incomprehensible poverty.
We visited each class at AFE starting with the nursery. Kids can immediately grab your heart, and I knew mine was gone the second we stepped in to play with these sweet cherubs.
As we visited each class, we learned their names, favorite colors, favorite subjects and what they would like to be when growing up. Doctors, paralegals, engineers, teachers, soccer players… They asked us questions as well, and it was so fun to hear their laughter as we struggled over our Spanish. We ended in each classroom, with an encouragement, “Te ve en la Universidad!”
It was amazing to see this school. To know that these students, not long ago were attending school for the first time, under a make-shift tarp, sitting on old tires, in the trash dump. Now they have roofs over their heads, sitting at desks and tables. God is good!

The next part of our day was a visit to the dump. We were educated on this, and were prepared…so we thought, for this visit. We were not allowed to take any photos, out of respect and dignity to those who make the trash dump their home. And honestly, pictures would’ve never conveyed what we saw.
As we drove up the winding hill, I prayed…”Lord, give me the strength I need for this. Give me eyes to see, and ears to hear these people.”
We were going up to feed the people of the dump and I thought about how it would have been for Jesus. How the dirty, sick and starving would come to Him and how he loved them all. I continued to pray as we pulled in. I was nervous. I had images of what I thought we would see, but as we approached I realized, quickly, that even my worst minds-image, wasn’t even close. We stepped out of the van with our bags of water and food, and the crowds emerged. At first it was hard to wrap my mind around these….people. Broken. Dirty. Emaciated. Their clothes, faces and hair all one color. I grabbed my composer, trying my best to keep my eyes from tearing. Trying my best to…breathe, through the rancid, sour, odor of rot and decomposition that was permeating my nose and mouth. We started a line to hand out water. We were instructed to make three lines, for men, women and children. As they raced into lines to grab whatever they could, I saw their faces for the first time. Their eyes. These people, who were entrenched in the piles of trash, right along with the buzzards and dogs, who seemed almost “un-human” had eyes so tender. Their faces, became real to me. They became, people. Human beings. I watched as smiles emerged from faces, grateful for just the small amount of food and interaction. I left the line with bags of water to hand out. I walked a ways, praying a silent prayer over these people. May God spare them of this. I watched as they scoured through new trash as trucks entered. Frenzied, looking for any tidbit they could find. Grateful for even a chicken carcass that was thrown out, so that they could have a meal for their family.
We got back into the van, and I sobbed! I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to be able to do more. I wanted for this entire population of people living in the dump to not exist. These men, women, children and infants to have a place to live and work and eat and breathe! To be clean and have fresh water. I wanted to scream. But I sobbed.

After our dump visit, I was so emotionally drained, I could barely speak. In fact all of us were quiet…each of us processing what we had experienced. Quietly lifting up prayers as the day went on. Praying for AFE and how God is using that ministry. Praying for our strength, as we all knew that the next day we would be out in the neighborhood building a house from the ground up. I was encouraged by this. Was excited to meet the family we were building for and hand the keys over on that last day. Little did I know, that God had given me a little glimpse on this very first day at AFE.

I changed on that day. Changed in a way that I am still working through and processing. Changed in a way that I cannot convey and may never be able to. A soul change. A shift so strong in me that I know I am a different person. That day at the dump will never leave my mind. The kids at AFE will never leave my prayers. My list of names is long. i know the country of Honduras is on my heart. I know and see that God IS working in this country. I know He is bigger than all of this.

– to be continued…..

For more information on AFE and their ministry, go to http://www.afehonduras.org/

~For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land. -Deuteronomy 15:11

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Little Lucy

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They loved the camera!

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Hiking to the statue of Jesus

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Below the statue
~ When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to Heaven. – Luke 24:50-51

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Christo el Picacho visible from any point in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.