Beauty That Remains

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

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

Actually….God’s story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laughter between people of two different countries.

Conversations between people that do not speak the same language.

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

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

Children shyly making eyes contact with us.

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

All of us bettering our Spanish language.

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

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

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

Making jokes with one another.

Laughter.

IMG_0912Dogs barking.

Turkeys gobbling.IMG_0706

So. Many. Smiles.

Generosity like I’ve never seen.

How thankful we were for one day’s rain.

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

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

Complete selflessness.

IMG_0765Walls of a home being lifted.

Nails being bent and re-nailed to perfection.

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

Softened hearts.

IMG_0915Rooves <roofs> going onto houses.

Children teaching us Spanish.

The strengthening of our hearts.

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

Smashed thumbs and healed hearts.

Fears being released.

Lives being changed.

Family being able to share an amazing experience together.

The love between a mother and son.

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

IMG_0688Hands working together.

Great patience.

God’s love and presence everywhere.

IMG_1004A dad’s love for his sweet daughters.

Tears of joy.

Tired bodies still willing to do something more.

Butterflies.

Beauty in the struggle.

So. Many. Answered. Prayers.

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

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

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

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Happy New Year 2014

Wow!  I am in shock at how fast this past year has gone.  Twenty-Thirteen for us was an incredible journey of life, love and adventure!  Life moves fast, and we can oftentimes forget over the year what we have accomplished.  I made a little video on my Instagram of this past year with my family and it really brought it into perspective.

photo copyThe wanderlust in us was definitely fed as we traveled to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Seattle (a few times) Canada 2 times, Honduras, Oklahoma, drove the California, Oregon and Washington coasts and ended the year with a family Christmas ski trip to Big Sky, Montana.  What a year!  We feel blessed beyond measure!photo

As I sit here, I am in awe of how God designs us.  As a small child I always had the desire to travel, even though I came from a family that didn’t do a whole lot of traveling.  We camped often and made the trip home to Pittsburgh, PA every few years, but my parents never had the desire for “exotic” travel.  It was never their thing.  Wasn’t their dream.  Interestingly enough, it was always mine.  Same with my hubs.  His family was similar; not a lot of big trips, but they had their fare share of adventures.  He also from a young age had the hearts desire for travel.  God bringing the two of us together was no accident.  He created in both of us a heart for travel and adventure.  Had either of us been different, it might have not worked out for us.  Serendipity.  His providence.  God definitely knows what He’s doing.

tumblr_m27ph7F7bL1r6479vo1_1280We dream.  And we dream BIG!  I recently read something about dreaming that said 80 percent of Americans say they do not have dreams.  I’m not talking about night-time, as you slumber, dreams; I am talking about the type that you fantasize about, that you get excited and giddy and enthusiastic and passionate about.  The type that you sit and day dream about, or sit for hours on end with a cup of tea and talk to your hubs about.  Those kind of dreams!  This post that I read also stated “awakening and owning the dreams that God has placed in our hearts isn’t about getting stuff or attaining something.  It’s about embracing who we are and who He has created us to be.” (from the book Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge)  He has created in my hubs and I the dream of travel and adventure (among other things) He has placed in our hearts that desire and through our faith in those dreams, He has opened up ALL sorts of experiences.images

We have already been dreaming for this year.  We are already elated for what will be awakened in us.  We are moving into this year with renewed passion, courage, brave-determination and a confidence in He who planted our dreams.

I love the new year.  Think of those words: NEW YEAR.  You have the ability to start over.  Wipe the slate clean.  Let go of the past.  Forgive.  Imagine.  Move forward into your dreams.  What are they?  Have you sat down to consider them?  Have you made new goals?  Have you day-dreamed?  Sometimes our dreams can seem unattainable.  Sometimes, we hear a whisper of a dream in our hearts but are too afraid to go for it.  To have the unbridled courage to reach out and grasp it.  To allow ourselves to be unchecked, uncontrolled and unconstrained in our ambitions, desires and passions.

Do you have the dream of travel?  How about running your first marathon or half-marathon, 5K or your first mile?  How about learning something new?  Learning to swim or a new language or to play a new instrument?  How about learning to surf?  Jumping out of an airplane?  How about a Triathlon?  Maybe…even a chance to write for Runner’s World Magazine as I did this year (link here) Dream BIG!!

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What are your dreams for the New Year?

The Beginning

I’m awake early. My mind is in complete process mode still sorting out all of the information it has taken in so far this week. It has been an incredibly overwhelming, exhausting, joy-filled, tearful, heart-swollen, God orchestrated type of week. I have been taking notes, and was prepared and planning to write this week about our time here in Honduras….what I didn’t plan for was the fact that it will take some time for me to collect myself enough to write and the fact that by the time we get home at night to the hotel and have dinner, I would fall, completely used up, into bed.

I’m sitting here in the early morning as sounds of Tegucigalpa fill our room. It’s a cool morning, and the open window feels amazing on my sticky, humid skin. I have laid here for about an hour now, listening to the sounds of the city. Motorcycles, dogs barking, beautiful birds chirping, gun shots, cars honking, music school warming up their instruments across the street, roosters calling, trash trucks…..a big difference from the quiet and silence of a morning at home.

Our team leader has decided that we would read through a book of the Bible while here, and each morning as we gather for breakfast and devotional time, we could talk about what God has brought to our attention in this certain book. The book, James! Which, struck me immediately when he said it. I just finished a Life Group that worked through the exact same book. Coincidence? Absolutely not! God doesn’t work in coincidences. I see that God was preparing me for this trip right down to the day we got here, and showed me that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

It’s a huge leap of faith to do a mission. One of the other leaders here said she constantly has people say they want to go with a team….and out of the hundreds that say they “want” to go…only a few actually do. It takes a lot of faith to step out of your comfort zone. But I know when God has whispered a mission into your heart, you better go. And that’s how it was for us. It wasn’t out of curiosity, it was out of obedience.

So I will collect the thoughts, images, sounds, smells, and prayers in my heart and mind, and soon they will spill out on to these pages. I will tell you this, I am so thankful for my faith, I am thankful that we stepped on to the ledge, I am thankful for my team’s obedience, I am thankful for the opportunity that we had to serve. I am grateful that God said, “Paula, go and be a blessing and a servant of mine to the people of Honduras” I am grateful that I listened. I am thankful for the support we have back home. I know I will never be the same. I know my life is forever changed in ways, that I’m not quite even sure is explainable. And I know that even though I planned on coming to Honduras to work hard and be an instrument of God’s love and blessing to these people, the blessings that we have received far surpasses anything I could ever imagine.

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