30 today…at 9:58 pm

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I can’t help but wonder…what her life would be like now….a young woman stepping into her 30’s…. leaving her 20’s behind.  I had been married for 11 years and had 2 children when I turned 30 yrs old…a “bossy” but smart 5 yr old and an easy-going 3 yr old.  I was a stay at home Mom and loved every minute of it… well, almost every minute…lol.  That is all I ever really wanted to be…a Mom.  But Lauren got a college degree and had a goal of being an event planner and hoped to have her own business one day.  I have no doubt she would have succeeded in that goal.  Would she be living in East Texas, the Hill County or even another  state?  Would she be in a big city or small town?  Would she be married yet…have any children? So many of her good friends are married with children.  Would they be meeting up for play dates and “Mama talk”?  Or would she still be looking for “the one”…but running a successful business and enjoying her life…traveling maybe?  So far she has me beat on the number of countries she has been to.  Would she be calling me up and asking how to make a certain recipe and checking up on her Dad and I?  Would she be arranging a weekend visit with her younger brother…to just hang out or float the Guadalupe River maybe?  Would we be going on family snow skiing trips or cruises or camping still?  She enjoyed our family reunions and seeing the new babies in the group…I know she would still be coming.  Holiday’s would be more fun if she was here…that girl was quick-witted and enjoyed belly laughs.  I know she wouldn’t be too busy to check on her grandparents…by phone or in person.  Would she have short hair or her long, brown, wavy hair?  Would she have put on a few pounds from motherhood or life stresses?  Just so many thoughts and questions running through my head.  I can picture her in so many different scenarios…wish I knew…”for real”…

One thing is for certain her time here on earth was as I hoped for her in her baby book.  She did grown up to be happy, healthy and a loving, caring person who loved life and her Lord.  Happy 30th Birthday Lauren… in Heaven…love you…miss you…20180518_083006-1

Precious baby hats & blankets

17820715_10208042508449951_1898368167_oLauren’s cousin, Jaymi Taylor, posted a message on facebook a few months back.  She wanted to crochet some tiny baby hats and blankets to give through a program, Carewear, at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.  She wanted to know if anyone wanted to join in.   She was making some herself already and she volunteered to crochet more for anyone who bought yarn.   I jumped at the chance to participate.   So we gave Jaymi a Love, Action, Faith scholarship to continue Lauren’s legacy of helping others.

Jaymi enjoys crocheting and it helps with her anxiety…it calms and centers her…giving her something to focus on.  I can certainly relate to anxiety issues.  A few years ago I had an anxiety/panic attack that sent me to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack…very scary to say the least.  Maybe I need to take up crocheting… again… for my anxiety.  My Grandmother, Mama Bea, tried to teach me years ago but she was left-handed and I was barely able to grasp a simple chain stitch…God love her she tried…I sure do miss that tiny, sweet woman.

As you can see Jaymi did a fantastic job and I love the striped hats, the texture on the blankets and all the different colors.  She lovingly attached tags that stated “In memory of Lauren Alston” and on the back is the Foundation website…so people can read about Lauren and what the foundation stands for.  Jaymi was able to make 48 hats and 8 blankets.  Lauren loved babies and I can just imagine how colorful the nursery is going to look with those precious babies in their new hats and blankets.  Thanks Jaymi…love you and your kind heart.

I haven’t forgotten

There are many things I haven’t forgotten…and that rings even more true with the 7 year anniversary of Lauren’s angel date approaching on March 7th.  As I have written before this time is hard for me…with our anniversary,  Taylor’s birthday and Lauren’s passing so close together.   But also what I haven’t forgotten is my blog.  I know it has been several months since I have written anything.  I have struggled with many things over the last few months…back issues for my son, anxiety and thyroid issues for myself, 6 months ago we moved and downsized again…and we hadn’t even dealt with all of our “stuff” from our first downsizing 6 years ago….all while in the midst of renovating, the “new to us” garden home, from top to bottom.  I have also struggled with no desire to write.  I haven’t forgotten her or you….and I do hope to get my “mojo” back soon.

I do want to tell you two things I’m going to write about very soon…two Love, Action, Faith scholarships we gave out recently.  And also one story now.  

On Christmas Eve I was sitting alone on the back patio, watching the sun sink in the sky and thinking about Lauren.  We now live one street over and almost behind a house we built about 20 years ago.  I was thinking about all of us in that home….decorating the kid’s rooms….our pets Bear and Max….the laughter and joy….Bryan building a jungle gym for the kids….Easter egg hunts…. Christmas trees and presents….lots of memories from our 7 years in that house.  I’m so close to that home I can see the roof through the trees and what I wouldn’t give to go back to that time in our lives…to see, love on and hug my young children…to have Lauren back.  Tears trickled down my face as the sun went down.  Bryan had been gone for hours, no doubt last-minute shopping as most men do, and I felt so alone….so sad to face another Christmas without Lauren….so forgotten….so not in the mood for this holiday.   When Bryan came home he had an envelope from our PO Box that we use for LAF mail.  It was the first time he had checked it in several weeks.  Inside the envelope was a card that read… “Just a little hello, sent with a lot of love.   Forever in our hearts, love y’all, Craig & Deann”.  My brother and sister-in-law had sent it a few weeks before but I got it on the day I needed it most.  The note was enough, it was a band-aid on my heart…she was not forgotten….neither was I.  It also had a bonus inside…a very generous donation to LAF.  When I called my brother to thank him I was crying so hard I could barely talk.  I know they don’t want recognition but I needed to tell the story of how deeply that touched my soul at the moment I needed it most…that’s what love will do for you.  Love you guys too.  

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We chose two again

2010-12-09_09-03-59.450We chose two recipients again this year for the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in Hospitality.  Adrianna Damani and Samantha Harris both impressed us with their heartfelt essays and excellent grades.  Although they both sent eloquent thank you notes I wanted to share Samantha’ s note with everyone as she will be graduating in December.

August 22, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Alston,

My name is Samantha Harris, and I am the grateful recipient of the Lauren Alston Scholarship.  I am a Hospitality Administration major heading into my senior semester at Stephen F. Austin State University, from Ft Worth.  After graduation in December, I plan on moving to Lewisville, Texas with my husband, and pursuing a career in event management.

 2014 has been a year of ups and downs for me.  In April, my husband and I decided to get married at the Fort Worth Medical Plaza ICU when my dad’s health took a serious decline, and we lost him shortly after.  The loss I felt, and still feel, is indescribable.  Afterwards, the thought of leaving my mom and sister behind to come back and finish school was almost depressing.  I even considered transferring to a school closer to home, but I knew my dad would want me to come back and finish, especially so close to graduation.  While growing up, my grandfather didn’t give my dad the support he needed to go to college expecting him to follow in his footsteps and take over the family air conditioning business.  It was something my dad regretted immensely because it put up so many road blocks as he went through life.  Because of this he always reiterated the importance of a college education, and that no matter what, he would make sure that we both had the ability to make a living and support ourselves.

Your support through this scholarship for my last semester is not only allowing me to fulfill my dream of a college degree, but also my dad’s dream for me.  You have taken a weight off both my shoulders and my mom’s, and for that I am eternally grateful.

With great appreciation,

Samantha Harris

And Samantha that makes us happy also.  We strive to reach out and help others as Lauren did.  We give scholarships in her memory, to give back as she also received scholarships, to help others fulfill their dreams of a college degree like she was able to achieve and also so she isn’t forgotten.  God bless you on your life’s journey and please lend someone else a hand along the way.

Love, Action, Faith Scholarship ~ Water Filter Buckets for Haiti

Water Filter Buckets ready to be assembled.

Water Filter Buckets ready to be assembled.

LAF recently awarded a Love, Action, Faith Scholarship to Bob Ford.  The scholarship was used to help buy Sawyer Water Filter Buckets for families in Haiti.

Bob said the following.  “The poor and the homeless are desperate for water, their tongues parched and no water to be found.  But I’m there to be found, I’m here for them, and God of Israel will not leave them Thirsty.” Isaiah 41:17

The past several years Lufkin FUMC has been involved in a collaborative effort with other churches, the Thomas Food project and the HAPI Women’s program in Mizak, Haiti to help provide items and services to Haitians.  Through these efforts, 600 Sawyer Water Filters has been distributed and provided clean water to 10 schools, 4 health clinics, 4 churches and several small Haitian businesses, as well as filters to several hundred families. In the next four months, six additional mission teams will be going to Haiti.  They will be distributing 650 filters, along with other services.

Below are the words of Emily Collins, a student at Texas State University, who has gone on several of these mission trips to Haiti, with the last one less than a month ago.  She will be going back in December and we are honored to give her a LAF: Love, Action, Faith Scholarship for her trip.  We look forward to hearing more about her experience afterwards.

Emily taught the Son how to  properly assemble his bucket.  He brought his Father back to learn.

Emily taught the Son how to properly assemble his bucket. He brought his Father back to learn.

I don’t think that I could say it any better than Jen Hatmaker in her book 7: “For whatever reason I was born into privilege;  I’ve never known hunger, poverty, or despair. I have been blessed, blessed, blessed—relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”  In the weeks leading up to our trip to Haiti, my mind is usually focused more on what has to be done before I go and right when I come back than what I am actually preparing myself for… I’m worried about the small things that seem like top priorities. I am stressed about what items I should pack and hope that I hadn’t forgotten any of my snacks. As we sit in the Miami airport waiting for our flight to PAP (Port-au-Prince), platinum cards, careless spending, overpriced items and the reality of how good (and bad) Americans have it surrounds us. Once in PAP, we are thrown into the reality of those who actually know despair. Any problems, issues, stresses that were once on your mind, are gone. Because compared to these people, our problems are NOTHING. For those of you who say, “There are poor people in need here, in the US. Why are you not staying here to help them?”

Well, the US provides governmental services for those in need. If they are in need of water, there are public fountains, water hoses, etc. While in Haiti, you see no governmental aid. They are expected to fend for themselves. To avoid a rant, I will explain what we do in order to provide relief to those who truly are in need. Once in PAP, we travel to the coast of Haiti to Petit Goave, where we load our belongings, filters, and buckets onto a time-worn, hand-built sailboat.  Enduring a rough five-hour boat ride is the least of our worries due to the excitement overwhelming you as you approach the island of La Gonave. We docked at Source au Philip, where Bob Ford has arranged multiple prior trips. The villagers are ecstatic to finally see us again and some small children who are still unsure about the “blahs” arrival.

(Blah… blanco… white) Our days consist of sweating, laughing, playing with beautiful children, attempting to understand the elderly, and exploring the dry lands of the island. Lack of rain has brought more devastation to these villages in the recent months. Crops are burnt and cattle have suffered from lack of vegetation.

The children come to you with open arms and hearts. Their innocence and love for others are apparent in all they do. If we have dirt on our legs, they try to brush it off. If there is hair in my face, they try to push it behind my ears. They play with our hair as they exclaim “bel” (beautiful). You try to fight back tears because all you can think is how these young souls are truly “bel.” You look at the lack of clothing they have and you are ashamed of the full closet of clothes you never wear. You look down at your chacos, knowing your feet are protected… while seeing a young Haitian boy trying to pull a large thorn from his bare foot.  You don’t understand why they must suffer through the hardships while you are blessed to be an American… raised with everything yet still wanting more. You may think that these people are upset, depressed, etc. due to their living conditions. However, these impoverished people are filled with joy and hope for they believe the best is always yet to come. To make sure our mission is understood, we gather those who receive filters into a pavilion and allow our interpreters to go over basic sanitation and hygiene information. Without proper education, our mission will never be fulfilled. Rodney spends hours with the group making sure they understand the importance of sanitation and how to properly maintain the filter system. Simply put, the filtration system we use is produced by the Sawyer company. With each filter purchase, a filter, filter hose, filter cap, instruction sticker for bucket, hanging hook, and back flushing syringe comes included in the package. With this package and a five-gallon bucket, a family of four can have clean water for up to 10 years, as long as they maintain the filters by back washing as demonstrated by the interpreters. We drill holes into the bucket on the side about 2 inches above the bottom so debris can settle into the bottom of the bucket without blocking the drain hole. The hoses are easily assembled to the hole with the use of washers, followed by attaching the filter. Simply put, that’s it… drill a hole, attach a hose, attach a filter. Clean water. However, for most of the Haitians this is an entire new concept with things they have never used or even seen before… so it can be a struggle to make sure Grandma understands how to assemble the washers on the hose and to know which end to back flush from. If they do not understand how to use the filter & bucket, they will not go home with one. We are to make sure these buckets are being used, properly. Each filter/bucket costs $60. So, for $60, you can go buy a new shirt… pair of pants… or you can provide a family with clean water for 10 years. The best part of it all though, is seeing the excitement of those who have received their filter and participated in assembling it themselves. They are proud of that filter and what that filter means for their family. They exclaim, “Bob’s water, Bob’s water.” Bob Ford simply shakes his head saying, “God’s water, God’s water.”

Happy and Thankful... Father and Son...now able to have clean drinking water for their families.

Happy and Thankful… Father and Son…now able to have clean drinking water for their families.

Things can become overwhelming while in a third world country, you are NOT in your comfort zone and what you expected is probably not what you are going to get. Dirty streets with roaming hogs, dogs, donkeys and chickens.  If you are blessed with a toilet, you sure don’t put TP in it. You learn to answer to “blah.” You become accustomed to seeing nudity. You don’t judge, because that’s not your place. You respect their culture and what it means to be Haitian. You sing their prayer songs before each meal and you are thankful for the rice and beans prepared. In a world where we always want more, they just want enough… enough food, enough shelter, enough money to buy government controlled water cisterns. As a student at Texas State University, I feel like I’m always listening to students ‘bitch’ about what they don’t have or just how bad they have it. However, they have most likely never involuntarily missed a meal or went days without water to drink or a home to provide shelter. It’s not about your Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Nike’s, and smart phones… it’s about your relationships, your character, your future, your hopes and dreams.

Thank you Emily for sharing your journey and giving us a glimpse of the life in Haiti.  You are right…we are truly blessed to live in America…the land of  “more than enough”.  Thank you for heeding the call…through Love, Action and Faith…to show Christ love.

Emily in PAP

Emily and some of friends.

Emily and some of her new friends.