Thursday, December 14, 2006

Life Rolls On - They Will Surf Again

So I've been learning a lot lately. Most recently and probably the heaviest on my heart has been the lesson of being selfless, putting others first and giving my life away. This last weekend I really saw people joining together to help others and it was incredibly inspiring.

There is an organization called Life Rolls On (you may have seen it featured on Extreme Home Makeover this past Sunday). One of the most popular programs with Life Rolls On is They Will Surf Again . This program gives wheelchair bound men and women the chance to surf again with help from a specially designed board.

In order to make sure that all of the surfers are safe in the water, it requires many, many volunteers. The people in my life group from church have kind of adopted these volunteers. If they are willing to give their time to help someone surf, we will give our time and feed them a hot breakfast to show our appreciation. We cooked everyone pancakes & sausage and provided them with hot coffee (it was freezing!). Here was our little set up and some of people from our group:

It had rained pretty hard on Saturday night so we weren't sure if the surfers were going to get a chance to go out. After eating breakfast & hanging out on the beach for awhile they decided to give it a try. This gentlemen was the first one up:
Here is a shot of some of the the volunteers:
Even with the wetsuits on these guys and girls had to be cold!

Blogger is being a pain and not letting me post more photos ... but there were a few good ones that we got of the guys surfing in. I'll try to put 'em up later....

When the guys rode the waves all the way in they were greeted by everyone on the beach clapping & cheering for them. It was heart warming to see these people who press on and don't let anything hold them back. I think that we could all learn a bit from them...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas In So Cal

If you find yourself around the Naples Island area be sure to walk along the canals to see all of the amazing home decorated for Christmas. Here is a snap shot of one of the most creative houses on the row:

And this one captures the So Cal Christmas mentality the best - Santa in a hammock between 2 palm trees. Does it get any better than this?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Lights & New Hope Academy

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you are going non-stop at 100 mph? Well, take that and stretch it out to a three week span and you will get a glimpse into my reality.

Thursday night was our "free night" from sales conference. So I called up my girl Carol and we dined at Calypso Cafe (hands down my favorite restaurant in the Nashville area). While we were eating, Carol pointed out that Kenny Chesney had walked in. It's funny but I think that I saw more famous people this weekend than I had in my entire 9 years of living in Nashville. After dinner, I met up with Jeremy N. and we went to see a home that single handedly lights up the neighborhood. The story, in a nutshell, is that each year this mans son "BJ" wanted his dad to hang more Christmas lights. When BJ passed away of cancer in 1993 the father lit up his house like the 4th of July in honor of his son. Check it out: Friday was an incredible day. The company that I work for has adopted a theme of giving our Christmas away. Instead of spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts or party for the employees, they pool the money and donate it all to a charitable organization. In 2003 & 2004 each employee got to choose angels for the Angel Tree program. In 2005 we partnered with Sweet Sleep - an organization in Maldova to buy winter coats, mittens and thermals for over 1,000 orphans. This year we donated a gross amount of money to a private school in Franklin, TN called New Hope Academy. Here's a quick description of the school:

New Hope Academy is a Christ-centered community school with an economically, racially, and culturally diverse student body. It exists to serve low-income families by establishing a solid Biblical world view, instilling vision, confirming hope and preparing each young person for a life of service.

Each employee was able to donate an item to the school from a wish list that teachers from New Hope created. The items ranged from a rug for the pre-K classroom, to books, hula hoops, instruments, gym equipment, etc. After each employee picked an item to donate we all boarded the busses to head down to the school.

When we arrived, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We joined the kids for their devotions, worship and birthday dedications. Then the CEO of our company presented them with all our donations. Not only did we get all of the items on their wish list but we were able to donate all new music instruments, new uniforms and money to contribute to Christmas day meals for the underprivileged kids. One by one you could see all of the teachers tearing up; which then led all of the women (including myself) to start crying. Needless to say, I was blown away.

The kids rounded out our time in the auditorium by performing a music program. It was so cute! After that we all broke out and went to different classrooms (I chose a 4th grade class). I was picked by the cutest little 10 year old who presented me with a mug she made. It was a drawing of a pine branch, her favorite Bible verse and a Christmas greeting. In turn, she taught me how to draw the same pine branch and I got to make a bookmark for her. We had about a half an hour to spend with our kid and when it was time to go my little girl goes "no" and then gave me the biggest hug you could imagine. It just melted my heart....

We were able to see the gratitude in the faces, tears and smiles of the teaching staff and kids at New Hope Academy. At the end of the day I don't know who was more impacted by this event; the folks at NHA or us.