Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Ponderings

Merry Christmas from the Brown's!
Taylor, Collin, Kristen & Rick
Christmas 2011

It's been a while since I've updated this site. Over the past couple of months I've had a few comments about my silence on this page. Frankly, it surprised me that anyone checks it for new updates... and it made me feel good!

Time sure does get away from us, doesn't it? We've been incredibly busy over the last 12 months, and I have neglected writing. Perhaps I'll make that one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2012...to make the time to enjoy writing. Wait, I forgot.  I don't set New Year's Resolutions -  I have a strict policy against those pesky little promises to self that always leave me feeling like a loser.

Oh, speaking of New Year's Resolutions, here's something for my dad. 
He loves Calvin & Hobbes.





2011 has been packed full of fun highlights. God has blessed us and without a doubt, I credit HIM for all of it. My sometimes melancholy nature steps up and I wonder why we've escaped tragedy this past year when so many of our friends and acquaintances have experienced dark days. Fairness certainly doesn't show up in real-life scenarios.  I'm reminded of a scripture that my Grandad lived by, and as such, left as part of his legacy.
"When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required." Luke 12:48
This makes me think about the way God helps those who are hurting. Those of us who have able resources, even just a little bit, must step up to the plate. We are the way God is going to help our neighbor, our friend in the next town, a child in another country. No one summed this concept up any better than Rich Stearns in his book "The Hole in Our Gospel."
If you are looking for a (non)New Year's Resolution, I highly recommend reading this book.

In thinking about my past year, I see learning moments scattered about.  Places I've been and things I've seen and heard. And up close, I can't see anything except the emotions of those moments. I see the thrill, the sadness, the boredom, the frustration, the elation. Words from a Sunday School teacher,  themes from the books I read. People I admired have been doing for others, ahead of themselves. Stories of love, inspiration, and remembrance shared at the funerals I've attended.

All these moments have been colliding together in a kaleidoscope of lessons over the year. I've been seeing the blurry colors and shifting patterns of those moments. And yes, it's been beautiful. But now it's coming into focus for me. There has been a common theme that God seems to have been teaching me.

Intentional living.
Something I've lacked. Something I've admired in others. Something I'd like to have more of.

You know what I'm talking about. How many times do we see someone in need and have a GREAT idea to help them out. But then the moment passes and we get busy with the other things that we need to do. Tasks at work, laundry at home, even responsibilities at church. Well, you've probably already learned this lesson. But for me, I'm just now seeing it.

I'm never at a loss of ideas. When I know of someone in need, the thoughts of how I might help literally pour out of my conscience. But then they never get acted upon because I'm just not INTENTIONAL. 

Being intentional about following through could make a huge difference in the world. Who do I think GAVE me that thought of how I could help out? Could it be God? I pray and ask God to help someone in need...a thought comes to my mind of something I could do... and then SPLAT! I let it drop. Because I'm not intentional.

Back to the scripture that Granddad lived - I've been given SO much.  I've been entrusted with SO much. This season of my life has been blessed. What do I think God expects of me in return? The kaleidoscope journey of the last year comes into focus and I know the answer.

I will live the answer.

With God's help, I will become more intentional with others. I will follow through with the actions that I know could make a difference.

Holy Moly, that sounds like a New Year's Resolution.  Nooooo, it can't be! Because as Calvin says in the cartoon above "I'm perfect the way I am!"





Sunday, November 28, 2010

What I Want for Christmas...

So the Holiday Season is here. I loved my long Thanksgiving weekend, but am not sure I'm ready for the madness that accompanies the next few weeks. 

I was completely content before this weekend... don't really have any needs or wants at all. But being bombarded by all of the Black Friday ads and watching people out shopping and seeing on facebook all of the "good deals" my friends got - well, it's hard not to get swept up in the frenzy.

We did venture out on Friday - enjoyed dinner out with the boys and got to hear all about their recent trip to Rome. We laughed together and it was one of the best times I've had in a long time!  It runs a close second to my most favorite place on the planet: Barnes & Noble! They left me there and went to research a vehicle purchase that is looming on our horizon. I selected a stack of books and settled in to peruse them, peering up now and then to observe the shoppers coming and going.  What I noticed mainly was the new outfits so many seemed to be wearing - it seems that half the store was decked out in their Black Friday purchases. One teenage girl even had the sticky strip still running down the leg of her new skinny jeans! She paraded around while I battled the dilema of "do I tell her, or do I let someone else tell her?" Just as I decided to get up and tap her on the shoulder, another gal-pal joined her and they turned the corner off into the self-help section in a giggling frenzy. (Teenagers looking for self-help books? Goodness-gracious!) 

I digress.

My point is that I'm trying not to be swept into the consumerism this season. Yes, there are some things I want - (new cup towels, W's new book, and a maid to come every 4 weeks) - but here's the deal. There's nothing wrong with the old cup towels I have now. And W's new book will be in the Library soon. And the maid? Well, if I really wanted the kitchen floor mopped, I'd do it myself.

The Advent Season is upon us, and I'm challenging myself to focus more upon doing for others this Season than for myself.  (http://www.adventconspiracy.org/) . It seems that I'm always suprised when I do something for others - without a doubt, the feeling that comes from it is almost addictive! I'm not kidding about this - there is a deep joy that is better than any cup towel, new book or maid that I could ever pay for.

Case in point: on Thanksgiving morning, Rick and I participated in a project spearheaded by a friend of ours. Sharon cooked a homemade Thanksgiving dinner in her own kitchen for almost 200 people. Volunteers boxed the plates up and delivered to those on the Meals on Wheels lists for the Lake area and Athens. (They received frozen dinners earlier in the week to get them through the holiday weekend, so these were a wonderful gift.) 

Rick and I had about 12 meals on our list to deliver. It was raining. And cold. But the food was hot, and what we encountered along the way warmed us up. This little old couple - first on the list - live way out in the country. The house was obviously the same one they had lived in for years upon years. Rick quickly noticed and began commenting on the little things that the man had done over the years. The tools hanging in his garage told a story of his handiwork. The crepe myrtles, now overgrown and untrimmed, stood stoicly in place on either side of the driveway - obvious to Rick's eyes that the location had been carefully selected a loooong time ago and planted with care. The car parked in the garage, collecting dust, hadn't been driven lately and I found myself wondering if there had been a battle when the kids took away the keys. Or were there any kids? Why were they here alone on Thanksgiving morning and not with their family? There was a story to be told, and I wish we could have taken the time to hear it.

The tiny shrunken woman sat in her housecoat in the recliner, oxygen tubes snaking up her side. The tv blared in front of her, but her full attention was on me. I walked over to her and gently grasped her hand, hoping I wouldn't hurt her paper-thin skin. The grip she returned suprised me. As I looked into her face, I felt everything around me fade away. The blaring tv receeded into the background. Rick had disappeared into the kitchen with the old man and it was just me and Mrs. R.

We held gaze for a few seconds as she thanked me and wished all of God's blessings on me. I felt like in that single moment... I knew her, and she knew me. We were linked briefly, complete strangers, crossing a bridge together, looking down into the valley of years gone by, and then looking up into the distant unknown stretching before us.

I let go before she did, and retreated back towards the door. Duty called, and we had hot meals getting cooler by the minute in the backseat. She again called out God's blessings for us and Rick wrapped up his moments with her husband.

We walked down the hall, let ourselves out the garage door and dodged the raindrops that were beginning to fall. Silence fell  as we sat in the car looking at each other, quietly assessing our emotions. Rick put it in gear and we drove down the drive as those two ancient crepe myrtles watched us slowly fade away. 

I told a friend yesterday that I feel like I saw the face of God in that little old lady's eyes. My friend said "maybe you did."

And the JOY  that I felt from serving that little old couple puts to shame any joy that I could feel over a new outfit, a book on my list, or even a maid. And the things that last in this world aren't things we can buy for our friends or family. It's fun to give gifts, and I'm not knocking that at all. 

I'm just saying that the things that last, that really matter, that make us who we are...

Those are the things I want for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And We're Off

I've been pretty silent lately - simply because our lives have been so incredible exhausting. Sometimes in the last few weeks, I've felt that I might have a complete and utter breakdown, simply from the mock speed we function at. Last night was a close call... but the threat of puffy eyes in the morning kept me stoic.

Today, we depart for California.  We'll be in a training class at PPD headquarters. That's Rick's line of business, credit card processing. I'm getting in on the action because I'm bored and am looking for more responsibility.  Yea, right.

Nevertheless, we'll be seeing people that we speak with on the phone almost daily. That will be nice. And I'm going to learn some things that will be helpful in supporting Rick's business.

Wouldn't you know that I already have 3 funerals lined up for while we are gone? Thankfully, my dad is in charge of the outside piece and Lauren, in the inside, doesn't need my help anyway!  But I still feel guilty leaving with so much going on. 

And then there's Roxie. The pooch.  Something is wrong with her, she's in pain and won't go up or down the stairs. She just looks at me to pick her up and deposit her where she wants to go.  Linda... I know you're reading this. Take good care of her. I absolutely hate leaving when I'm not sure what's wrong with her. If only our pets could talk to us!

Well that's all the round-up I have time for. You don't get anything else... Maybe I'll be inspired upon returning and write something really witty and insightful.

Ta-ta.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Return

It's Monday, and with that is a Return to lots of things.

Return.... of Craig to the USA. I've been calling him every hour, since I'm not sure when he actually gets home. Maybe he's back already and just hasn't turned his phone on yet. I'm so anxious to hear his voice. Thank you to all my friends who prayed for his safe travels and for blessings on the mission trip.


Return...from a fun weekend in Dallas. Mom and I spent time with Carolyn in Dallas this weekend. We tore up the town and had SO much fun. We were introduced to YogurtLand - OMG is all I can say about it. It was so good, and I loved that we could make our own creation and just pay by the ounce. Pistachio with toasted almonds was my favorite, although toasted coconut was a close second. We also saw Eat, Pray, Love and enjoyed it thoroughly. Carolyn had the pleasure of hosting Elizabeth Gilbert at the DMA and shared that Elizabeth was by far, one of her favorite authors to work with. The movie followed pretty closely the book - that is something that usually doesn't happen. In the picture below, we have just finished eating a wonderful breakfast of omelettes prepared by a chef at their apartment building.


And this is a picture of the dash of Carolyn's car as we drove around Dallas Saturday. 117 degrees??? C'mon! I'm sure that isn't entirely accurate, but it sure felt like it!

Return...from the land of the Armyworms!  OK, last week was a nightmare, courtesy of those little squiggly guys with army hats and flack jackets. We were warned on Monday, but they didn't arrive until Tuesday morning. Once here, they invaded rather quickly. After much searching, and with the help of Uncle Lee, we found a 60 gallon sprayer in Mineola. Rick brought it back to Athens Monday night where we quickly discovered that the height of the sprayer arms wouldn't clear the flower vases on the memorials. So we started the laborious process of removing the flower vases. Lee to the rescue... at about 10pm he and Rick headed over to Red Dot and had the shop build a piece that attached to the sprayer to raise the arms high enough. Success! Armando started spaying Wednesday morning while Sammy put back into place the vases I had lowered the night before. Wednesday is spent searching for a replacement pump, all the while the Army continues to invade and attack our precious turf. Finally, Thursday arrives and all problems are resolved. We spray.  The major blessing in all of this is that there was not a funeral last week. A funeral, while providing much needed revenue, would have been a mess with Armyworms climbing all over the feet of our guests!

Return...of Rick from prison! Rick spent Saturday with the men at the Beto Unit. He came back sharing some wonderful updates and stories of hope and renewal amongst the men that he met with. We are looking forward to another Kairos weekend at Beto in November.

Return to the projects I've been putting off...Every Monday I feel a return in motivation to tackle the projects I've been putting off at work. Once again, that is how I felt this morning. Refreshed and ready to tackle several things.  Fast forward...It's 5:15pm now on Monday, and that motivation has slowly slipped away. It's starting to look like I'm going to have to wait until next Monday to feel the motivation again.

I'm ready for the weekend!  :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

I've been silent for a few weeks on my blog. Probably because I just have nothing to say!  In fact, I don't even have a title for this post.

Sometimes I go through periods of silence in my life. Maybe you do to. Times when we are so busy with work and schedules that we just put ourself in "sustain" mode and go. While I'm busy doing everything that needs to be done, I also somehow remove myself from the "grid" and hide at home when the day is done.  I hope my friends are still out there when I emerge from the cave!

You can ask Rick...Over the last few weeks, even Tuesday Night Date Night has been at home. I just haven't wanted to go out or do extra stuff. Maybe it's a bit of the Summertime Blues. This summer has gotten so hot and long....I'm ready for the seasons to change. God knew what he was doing when he created the seasons, because I'm ALWAYS ready for it when it arrives. Now, if He could only make our Texas fall start a little bit earlier...

To wrap up, let me just list a few things going on:
1. My brother is arriving in Uganda tonight for his mission trip with E-3 Partners. I'm sure he's already exhausted with the travel that began yesterday, through Detroit and Amsterdam. Mom and I will spend next weekend with Carolyn - going to have some girl time to keep her company. A trip to the Apple store, Barnes & Noble, and a movie are sure to be on the list.

2. Sadness in my heart over the passing of Brother Bond. He was the pastor at FBC Athens for years, and was a dear friend of the family. Marion and the kids...we love you and are praying for comfort.

3. Website - Cornerstone is getting an overhaul, thanks to the folks at Clever Mutt. More to come on that... meanwhile, I think they are waiting on me to provide some more information. Yuck. I hate the ball being in my court!

4. Learning more and more about the Faith Based Wing at the George Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony. They now have about 500 inmates living out their faith, doing Bible Study and trying to make a difference in the way they live. Over the last 3 years, the program has had 111 inmates released through parole. Only 1 has come back to prison. How is that for a recidivism rate? Completely blows the TDJ rate of 70% out of the water!  We are good friends with Casey Miner who runs the program at Beto, and it's always encouraging to talk to him about what's happening, so I just wanted to share that with you!

Ok, I'm done for now.
That's all, folks. (Say that to yourself in your best Porky Pig voice.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Celebration Time

Family truly is something to be celebrated.

I am extremely fortunate to have a close knit family. As a child, my parents found it important to build frequent "family outings" into our schedule. I have wonderful memories of those Saturday Family Outings when we would take turns getting to decide on the outing. I remember one time we walked the railroad tracks (I think that was my idea) and picked up those big nail things that are sometimes loose on the tracks. Other fun outings were camping, wading in the creek, playing baseball in the street with a stick and pine cones for the balls, building the world's largest see-saw out of fallen trees...

Now that Craig and I are grown and have families of our own, it seems more special when we are all able to squeeze in time together for another "family outing." I'm especially aware that we are not guaranteed another day together in this present life. Each day is a gift from God, and we must treat it as such. Perhaps in my business of burying people and working with grieving families I'm more sensitive to that fact.

Craig recently celebrated a momentous occasion in his life, and our family converged again for another family outing. Yes, folks... my brother is officially over the hill! Goodness, I remember when 40 seemed ancient. You start falling apart at 40, right? Well. Cough. A-hem. I'm 36 now, and all of a sudden, 40 doesn't seem to be that old at all!

Back to the family outing... Rick chauffeured me and the parentals to Dallas last Friday night to celebrate Craig's generational advance. We met at his new apartment in Republic Tower, in downtown Dallas. The grand tour was indeed impressive - their new home is absolutely beautiful! It felt so grown up! Standing in their elegant living room, overlooking the bright & bustling city below, I self-conciously compared it to our little Athens farm house, unsophisticated and country as it is. Yes, I love my little farm house (crickets and all.) But I REALLY LOVE Craig and Carolyn's place. It makes me want to hold my pinkie out as I sip a cup of tea and say, "This is soooo faaaabulous, daaahhling!"

So in the celebratory spirit of the occassion, allow me to post some of my favorite pictures from the evening!

First up.... Craig, next to his obligatory sign announcing the occasion.

This is the rooftop of their apartment building, The Republic Tower. We were fortunate to be the only ones up there for most of the evening. The pool became ground zero for most of our antics.

As I said... antics. C'mon everybody, let's do the limbo!!!


I'm not sure what was happening here. Rick must have gotten too close to CW's territory. But in all truth, if it weren't for Rick, that crazy grill wouldn't have gotten lit. Silly buttons on the wall masquarading as light switches couldn't fool Rick for too long. It did have us wondering for a while if we'd be eating hamburgers "a la sushi" style!

And whatever they're laughing about sure must have been funny. I think Rick is so adorable in this picture! He LOVES to laugh!


This is our favorite picture! Dad's trying to count to 40, Mom and Carolyn are holding up "4-0" and Rick and I are aging Craig up to   "5-0!"

Uh-oh. Mom's had too much to drink. She's going in for a swim!  Lay off that Diet Coke, will you mom?
Goodness gracious.   I'm telling you, we can't take her anywhere!!!

See what I mean? She's trying to knock me backwards into the water. It just might have happened until she realized her phone was still in her pocket. She seemed to straighten up then.

So we started acting a little bit more sane... Carolyn is a good influence on us! We were showing off our white legs.


Meanwhile, back over at the grill station, Craig is having a down moment. It's hard knowing that half your life is already lived....  cheer up, Craig. We're here to support you all the way into the nursing home!

Dad focuses back on the task at hand. He grilled angus burgers and chicken... I think it was the best hamburger I've ever had! We ate overlooking 35 stories of downtown and laughing together about past memories and future dreams. London 2012, right guys?

After dinner, we pulled our chairs up to the west window to see the sun set, big and fat, over the city.

And back inside, we took a nice family portrait of Craig, Carolyn and Regalo next to the birthday banner. When we were kids, mom sewed each of us a banner. I remember getting to pick out the iron-on decals from Discount City in Jacksonville. Craig was aiming for his Eagle Scout award, so that's probably where his Eagle came from. I, on the other hand, chose a decal with a couple of squirrels building a giant ice cream cone. Mom was always faithful to break out the banners during the week of our birthdays. It always made us feel special as kids. And still does as adults! 

And then we had birthday cake. Always the best part of any party!

So now you have it. The Bess Family Capers. I hope there are many more to come.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trip to St Louis....

Last Friday, I drove mom and dad to St Louis for a surprise birthday party for dad's sister Jean. We  had a great drive up there, stopping for the night in Arkansas, and having fun at a rest stop along the way. Yes, the Bobbsey Twins are back!


The party was at my cousin Cheryl's house.
She has a great backyard that was setup with picnic tables and games. Aunt Jean arrived, thinking it was just going to be 4th of July BBQ with some friends. She had no idea that all of her siblings would be there! The only one missing was Uncle Richard - we missed having him there.

Aunt Jean was very surprised when she stepped into the backyard!
Here is dad with the birthday girl.
Below are my four aunts:
Louise, Carolyn, Doris, and Jean


And here are all of the 8 kids in the Bess family. Left to right:
Ball (Uncle Richard), Carolyn, CW, Louise, Lyndell, Jean, Darrell, Doris

And then the obligatory funny picture!

This is Aunt Jean with my two cousins, Valerie and Cheryl. Because of the modern wonders of Facebook, I've had the chance to get to know my cousins better. It was great to see them!

One final picture of all the siblings.... This is from 1963. Dad said it was taken just before he left for a mission assignment in Hong Kong. Grandma and Grandpa are in the center at the back with the corsages. Grandpa died before I was born, so I never got to know him. But Grandma was the best, especially with chicken & dumplings, homemade bread & frozen ding-dongs.
Front row, Left to Right: Doris, Louise, Jean, Carolyn
Back Row: Dad (CW), Lyndell, Grandma, Grandpa, Darrell, Richard

The drive back was uneventful, with the exception of one fatal flaw. I ran over a huge snake on this little County Road. And what made it so bad was that I had JUST rolled my window down and put my arm outside. Then the snake happened, and I was really wigged out that I had snake-guts on my arm and my car. Turns out, I didn't, but the heebie-jeebies stayed with me for a while.

Rick asked me if I would have rather run over a bunny rabbit. After thinking that over, I decided that I would! At least that way I would just be sad, but probably wouldn't have the residual aftershocks of the creepy-crawly's.  

I'm quite aware that this blog is quite boring for anyone except my family, so I'll sign off now. But for my family that is reading it, especially the Besses in Missouri, know that I love you and am glad we traveled to St. Louis!  Maybe next time, you can come to Athens. We have lots of room available between mom and dad's house, my house, and a fishing cabin down the road. So consider a visit down our way!



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Highlights of Honduras

It's simply impossible to summarize the experience from our trip to the House of Hope.  There are so many moments that I cannot express adequately, so the following pictures will have to suffice. Thanks to each of you that supported us in prayer while we were gone. We are glad we went, and glad to be home safely.

Below are the 3 highschool guys at the airport in Houston, waiting on our outbound flight. On the left are Rustin and John, returning to Honduras for the 2nd year. Collin, on the right, is on his first trip to the House of Hope. In total, there were 12 of us that traveled.
Below is just a fun shot from the mall (yes, mall) in La Ceiba. I didn't know we owned a sporting goods store! After landing in San Pedro Sula, we took a 3 hour van ride to La Ceiba to spend the night. The stop at a mall was our last bit of modern civilization for a while. We ate at Applebees, listened to their 80s radio music and reminisced about all things 80s. (He-Man, Garbage Pail Kids, UnderRoos...you get the picture)
This is the 18 passenger plane we took from La Ceiba to Puerto Lempira. It was much nicer than the one I remembered from 2 years ago, but still not much fun if you don't like prop planes. After about a 90 minute flight, we landed on a dirt runway with armed guards that meet the plane. Drugs are very prevalent in this area. In fact, it's known as Cocaine Coast because of the drug smuggling. Hence, the guards.
Below is a group picture of all of the children. Katrina, standing in the green, is telling them to sing "Jesus Loves Me" for a video camera. They sang it in English, Spanish, then Moskito. We tried desperately to upload the video to an email and send back to our church, but to no avail. Our hope was that it could be played in Children's Church that Sunday while we were gone. However, internet in Puerto Lempira is spotty as best, and while the local "internet cafe" had DSL, we were unsuccessful in getting the email to send.
Collin is mesmerizing the children with a magic trick of disappearing coins. They couldn't get enough of it! I was kind of surprised that the pieces to this trick survived the trip and didn't end up in a child's pocket.



Watch the video below to see Collin entertaining the children with his juggling skills.
video
The next group of pictures are the construction project that the men worked on. At the landing strip (it's hard to call it an airport), there was a dilapidated building. Katrina petitioned the Mayor and was able get the City to let her turn it into a store for the paralyzed divers. One of Puerto Lempira's industries is lobster-diving, and most of the local divers do not wear protective scuba gear. When they come up from the floor of the ocean to fast, many of them become paralyzed. They then lose their ability to produce income and must turn to handicrafts to try and support their family. The building that our team began enclosing and re-roofing will house a "souvenir shop" of sorts for travelers to purchase handmade items like jewelry and purses. They will also sell snacks. Our men installed a new tin roof, enclosed the walls, and ran plumbing lines for bathrooms and showers. One of the paralyzed divers will live at this store as well. In Honduras, if you leave anything - I mean anything - unattended, it will sprout legs and walk off. So this structure will also become a residence.
The picture below is Katrina standing in Jose's house, at the table he uses for making jewelry. Jose will be one of the men that will stay at the new store. His current house is not much larger that what you see in this picture. Just a tiny room with room for his wheelchair and his table. Jose is very excited about this project. He sends money that he earns to his son that is in college in Nicaragua, and knows that his potential for earning more income will increase when the new store is open.
Here I am sifting rice with 2 of the girls. Rice is a staple of almost every meal, and icky things have to be sifted out of it before cooking. Apparently, mice like to play in the bags of rice...
Carol is holding a hydrocephalus baby. If I recall correctly, the mother is on the Milk Program that Katrina runs. There are over a hundred mothers on this program that come to the House of Hope at scheduled intervals to get milk. They are not healthy enough themselves to produce milk, so the powdered formula literally saves lives of these babies. They do not believe that this baby has brain damage, so that is great.
Our "Sisters in Service" (a group of women at our church) send money to the Milk Program every year. The picture below is Larry presenting a substantial sum to Katrina for the program. She was overjoyed!
And below is Charlotte supervising a game of "memory." It started out organized but quickly became mass confusion. They had fun, and Charlotte tried her best to keep the game going smoothly. I'm pretty sure we did NOT end up with all the pieces going back into the box. Oh well! This picture is taken in the kitchen area of the guest house. Over the past couple of years, the guest house was constructed by our group and other groups to house the volunteers. Before it was completed, we would sleep in the dorm with the kids at the main house. Let me tell you, it is a whole new world having your own bed in a separate house! The guest house has 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths and sleeps up to 18 in bunk beds.
Below, Sharon is cleaning teeth in the newly constructed dental clinic on site. Dr. Tom Brian, who founded "Send Hope" (the non-profit that supports the House of Hope,) frequents the clinic several times a year to offer his dental services. Since Sharon is a hygienist, she had made arrangements to spend some time in this manner as well. What a great thing!

This next series of pictures are from our day traveling to the Islands. We took a boat to three different islands to deliver notebook paper and school supplies to the children. These children received notebook paper from our group the past 2 years in a row, and this outing has fast become one of the highlights of each trip to Honduras. Katrina told us that the school children will write on the paper in pencil, then erase everything and reuse the paper over and over again. Once they run out of paper, it's gone. Pondering this really puts things into perspective! Back home, we will waste a sheet of paper so quickly. These children let nothing go to waste. (Their culture is much better stewards of the environment than we are.)
As we were approaching the island, the children would come running to meet us at the shore. Katrina had broadcast on the radio the day before so that they would be expecting us. School was recessed for the event, and the whole village came out to see us. Of course, everyone knew Katrina. She's a legend everywhere she goes.
They formed lines while our boys passed out notebooks. The teachers received bags with supplies in it like markers, crayons, pens, and glue.
This is a typical residence. You can see Collin and John in the front handing out the notebooks. The lady that lived here was ill, and had been for quite some time. Sharon shared that she had met the lady last year on this same trip to the islands and she was still gravely ill.
I'm wearing a rain poncho - it POURED on us for much of the time. I was grateful for the poncho, but felt a little bit ridiculous at the same time. I think the kids thought it was frivolous.
At the next island, we delivered the supplies and then were treated to coconuts. The video below is amazing... watch how quickly the boy climbs to the top of the tree!
video
The teacher whipped out his machete (a tool everyone has) to chop holes in the coconut so that we could drink the milk. Young coconuts are yellow - You don't get the brown ones that we are used to seeing until they mature. The milk from the young coconuts tastes very unique, almost like cola. It has a sweet fizz to it and kind of "pops" in your mouth.
The one I'm drinking is an older coconut, and the milk is not fizzy.
On our boat trip back to Puerto Lempira, we stopped at the home of James and Paula Anthony. They are missionaries with Global Outreach International. While we visited with them, some of our group found a swimming hole to cool off in!
Ok, in the video below, you'll see how COOL these little "touch-me-nots" were. They grow on the ground and the second you touch them, they shrivel up. We had more fun playing with them!
video

Upon returning back to the House of Hope, Rustin had a birthday surprise waiting on him. In honor of his 18th birthday, the children decided to crack eggs on his head and cover him with sawdust, then pelt him with water balloons. Nice, eh?   Remind me NEVER to celebrate my birthday in Honduras!
He was such a good sport about it though, we rewarded him nicely with a rather large piece of cake. Good job, Rustin! You were a much better sport than I would have been! (By the way Rustin, I have a nice video of the egging if you want it!)


Our time drew to a close on Wednesday evening. We left for the airport about 5am Thursday. In years past, some of the children have made their way down to the airport to see us off. So we were all a little disappointed that they didn't make it this time. Had I known that, I would have taken some extra time Wednesday night to say goodbye.  Little Edius was my special angel on this trip. I regret not being able to say goodbye properly. 
A little story about this guy... During the trip, I learned that a friend of ours had passed away. Erin is my age, and had bravely battled cancer for 17 months. She passed away on Monday during our trip, leaving behind her husband Jon and 4 beautiful children.  The news hit me pretty hard, and I felt lonely being away from family during this time. Our cemetery handled the arrangements, and that made it more difficult to not be there to help with those details.  On one evening I was feeling sad about Erin. I sat down on the concrete step and just couldn't hold the tears back anymore.  And get this...little Edius came running across the yard and skidded to a stop, landing in my lap. He took one look at my tears, wiped them away and kissed my cheek. There was no verbal communication, only the tenderness expressed in his touch.

How incredibly amazing... I set out on a mission to serve and give to others. And yet somehow, this little impish-grinning, toothy smiling, muddy little 6 year old touched my heart with his kindness.
I guess I was the one who really received the gift.