Saturday, August 6, 2016

Kindred Spirits.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Anne of Green Gables

Siblings with the one and only Don Meyer! 

Dearest Readers,

It seems I've been bitten by the writing blog after those long months away. So, hello, again!

If you have ever read "Anne of Green Gables," then you're sure to be familiar with those words that describe friendships so perfectly--'kindred spirit.' She also uses 'bosom friend,' which I loved to use after I first read the books as a 10, 11, 12 year old, but my mom quickly told me that those words might not be appropriate in this century. I am glad she did, though secretly I continue to use them in my journal and in my heart.

I tend to be of the personality type that squeals when I find a kindred spirit friend. It's easy to know if they really are a kindred spirit, then, by whether or not that squeal unsettles them.

These past two days were sweet, sweet days filled with kindred spirits.

During Lent this year, I decided to follow  Pope Francis's  call to give up indifference. I had decided to observe Lent because so much of our Spanish studies include Catholicism, and the tradition was one I really admired. Of course I adore the Argentine Pope, and so when I read his words about how so many people give up things with ulterior motives, I was immediately convicted. I had planned to give up bread, not just because it's my favorite food group and would definitely be a struggle, but because I also knew it would have positive effects for my body. He said indifference is the real problem with our world today, and I couldn't agree more. It was an incredible season for me, and I learned so much I could write several blog posts about it.

I realized that I was being indifferent to the special needs siblings like myself. It wasn't a hateful indifference, it was simply a "It's hard for me to think of your struggles and to see myself in them so I simply don't" kind of indifference. And, to be honest, I would rather focus on the disabled community instead.

I was shunning indifference from my life, though, so I sent Don Meyer, the director of the Sibling Support Project, an email. As had happened the entire Lenten season, God surprised me by how obviously He had ordained for this to happen. Don had just put dates on the calendar for a sibshop facilitator training in Jackson, and within that day I was added as the very first attendee. Crazy, right?

That training was this Thursday and Friday, and oh my goodness, what an incredible two days they were.

It was the first time all of us adult sibs had gotten to meet and know other siblings like us--true kindred spirits. We sat side by side on a panel and faced a room full of service providers and parents whose passion is caring for those with disabilities, but who are realizing the importance of those siblings, too. As we answered those questions and found our answers mirroring one another, I began to understand what a unique community this is. Even though the disabilities our families face varied, we are all linked by not just the struggles, but the undying love we have not just for our families and siblings, but for everyone with a disability. It was an incredible thing.

We've grown up in worlds where our siblings have countless therapists, doctors, teachers, etc. dedicated to thinking about them and worrying about them and caring about them--and though our siblings would probably say they would have rather not had all those people surrounding them, it sends a very clear message that, "You matter." To sit in that room, then, and to hear Don repeatedly talk about how much he LOVES siblings, felt like being told over and over again, "You matter. All of you matter."

It's true; everyone in this world matters. The siblings I met this week and I already have plans set in place to begin discussing starting Sibshops in the Jackson area, and to continue being present in one another's lives. I am truly thankful to have found these dear kindred spirits, and can't wait to bring together kids in this area so they can find their own. What a gift.

I hope you have your own kindred spirits in your life that reaffirm you. You matter very much.

Your blogger,

I love Cate's joyful smile at the Sibshop demonstration! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

On Writer's Block.

Dearest Readers,

I didn't mean to take such a long break from blogging. I've sat down at the computer several times this summer intent to publish something. I really wanted to share with you about my freshman year, but something always stopped me. Something ugly and intimidating and gross.

Writer's block.

I once read an author say she didn't believe in writer's block, and to a certain extent I don't think I do, either. I have names for whatever has stopped me from writing, and they're called: fear, the feeling of inadequacy, smallness, doubt, and a host of others.

It wouldn't be too much of a problem since this blog has maybe five regular readers. Except I'm speaking at a conference in TX later this month, standing on a stage alone sharing my family's story. This is requiring me to write, regardless of writer's block and feelings of inadequacy.

My first semester, I had a fabulous English teacher. I fairly ran out of her class the first day she gave us a big assignment: to write a paper on something or someone new to us at MC. By that night I had chosen a subject and written all of my interview questions and created a rough outline. I love telling people's stories. When it came time to tell a story of our own, however, and I had to talk about move-in day and the week of Cate's hospitalization that prefaced it, I was stopped dead in my tracks with--you guessed it--writer's block.

I don't really understand it. I believe deeply in my soul that everyone's story matters. I would like to climb on top of a tower and shout to every person in the world that they have a story and it deserves to be told.  I would throw pencils and pens at them and urge them to document the moments of their lives, because they are unique to them and beautiful and the world should know about those moments.

But what a hypocrite I am, because when it comes time for me to write the moments of my own life, my ears can only hear, "You don't even have a story. These words don't matter. The world has better things to think about." 

My dear family and sweet friends are quick to assure me these words are lies--they kindly encourage my heart, and their encouragement gets me through another paragraph or so.

But then I had a video conference with two other women headed to this conference. At first I was silent, struck again with how little I have to contribute. Soon, though, I forced myself to speak and found myself laughing over the strange comments families like ours often get. It felt nice. Until one of them asked me, "So, Claire, do you use a chair?" and I realized with a sickening drop in my stomach that she assumed I had CP. Awkward apologies and explanations followed. Just a single comment, and it was enough to bring that writer's block back so forcefully I just want to cry as I stare at the words I have written and think about the many I still need to fit into my time-slot.

When I struggled so much on that English assignment, I started writing about something that makes me smile (salsa dancing), and it shoved that great big block out of the way and somehow became the paper (seriously I wrote about salsa dancing, ha). While I don't think I'll be printing this out and sharing it at the conference, I hoped it would do the same. As I wrote, I received an email from one of the women from the video call. I had written to apologize, again, over the confusion of whether or not I had CP, and to give her permission to take me off this presentation committee since it doesn't really make sense for someone without CP to stand up there. She actually told me she knew I didn't have CP and wanted a sibling's perspective added. That email, coupled with the words that now cover this page, have successfully shoved that great ugly block out of the way.

I think next time I go four months without blogging I'm just going to slap myself with a reminder to get over myself, haha.

Thank you, readers, for faithfully reminding me that my story matters when I sometimes forget. You show me that every time you click on this little blog of mine, and you have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you.

Your Blogger,

P.S. you should write your story down no matter how hard it is because it's important that the world hear it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

When Healing Doesn't Come, Jesus' LOVE Still Rains Down

Dearest Readers,

This morning my family and I sat together in church. It was a lovely start to our Easter Sunday. Until about halfway through the sermon.

The message revolved around specific examples of healing from throughout the church. Each story was followed by passionate "Amens" and clapping, which spurred him on to the next story of miraculous healing and prayers answered. After the second one, he took a moment to acknowledge the pain anyone who has dealt with loss in the past year might be feeling, but he only stayed there for a second before continuing to tell us the story of a baby who was deprived of oxygen at birth. The doctors thought he was probably dead, and the father (a doctor) stood beside his wife and fervently prayed while assuring her everything was ok. The next thing I knew a picture of a beautiful young boy was flashed on the screen and the preacher paused dramatically before he declared how powerful this couple's prayers were because this boy was perfectly healthy.

I had been uncomfortable the entire time, but this time my eyes filled with tears. I looked around at the thousands of people in the sanctuary; I looked at the videographer beside me and wondered how many others were hearing this message across the state. And of those thousands of people, how many of them will experience healing on this earth?

I was sitting beside my parents, who were in an operating room similar to the one of that couple's nineteen years ago. My parents were praying then, too, and yet my brothers didn't get healing. They have brain damage that radically changed the course of my parents' lives.

I'd like to speak to the ones who haven't experienced healing--the ones who were only spoken to for a moment this morning. I would like you to know that you are worth much more than that one moment. I would also like you to know that God's power isn't only evident in healing. In fact, I would say His power is most evident in suffering.

Jesus could have said the word and God would have sent twelve legions of angels to rescue him from the cruel fate of the crucifixion (Matthew 26:53). Just one word, and He could have avoided the flogging, the nailing, and the separation from God. It would have been so easy. Yet He stayed and suffered for our salvation.

I don't have any answers for why God heals some on earth and chooses to withhold healing until Heaven for others. It hurts my heart and I am so sorry. The only thing I know for sure, though, is that God loves us an incredible amount, and that love is evidenced by the cross. I know He doesn't watch His people suffer without suffering alongside us.

Most importantly, I know that just because He withholds healing DOES NOT mean He has abandoned you. My parents might not have seen healing for my brothers, but God has shown them He is still here in the form of so many people--their first Occupational Therapist who taught my mom the boys' disability didn't define them, the teacher who taught Benjamin he could do so much in spite of his CP, the friends who built a ramp so we could get into their home.

A key thing in that list are people. I think God leaves it to us, in many cases, to carry His hope. My friend at MC coined the term "fight-alongsiders." I love that word because it implies you are in the fight just as much as the person you're beside. Let's be fight-alongsiders with the ones who won't get healing on earth, even when it's sad and hard and nothing like we thought life would be. Have you ever wondered how people have hope even in the most hopeless of situations? It's carried to them by you, friends.

The God who was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the grave is the same God who lives inside us and gives us strength to keep going even when it feels like our prayers aren't being answered. These are the things I would have liked to tell those thousands of people today. Thank you for reading. It is a privilege to be one of your fight-alongsiders.

Your Blogger,

Friday, January 8, 2016

. The Great Christmas Reading List!

Dearest Readers,

It's to the point where my blog posts are so sporadic I can't even begin with an apology anymore. So without further ado:

Christmas break has been oh so lovely. We have lived in Mississippi for six months now, and celebrated with a beautiful getaway my parents surprised us with. It was perfect--we never got a chance to catch our breaths this summer with moving and multiple hospitalizations, so took this trip to catch up on time together. A hotel has always been my favorite place to be, even if we just sit on the bed eating room service and watching movies.

With the travels, I got a chance to catch up on my reading. It was pure bliss! I feel like I keep using those impossibly upbeat Anne of Green Gables adjectives, but y'all--I don't know that I have ever enjoyed Christmas break more. So excuse the gushiness.

Book club was one of my favorite parts of elementary school. We had a precious librarian who gave up her lunch hour to create a bubble of security and enlightenment for some awkward preteens. I learned how to read outside of my comfort zone and learned that it's still okay to love someone who doesn't finish the assigned reading ;). She taught me how to recommend books and how to read well. Her book recommendations were magical--you couldn't refuse a book once she detailed it to you.

So here I sit, your makeshift librarian, anxious to share the treasures I have found over this Christmas break. Please leave a comment with recommendations and favorites of your own!

Book number one:

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

The latest installment in the dearly loved Mitford series, my mom and I made a whole lunch date in order to purchase it. In September. Shameful, I know. I read it off and on all semester until I finally got to finish it at the beginning of break. (I had to leave it at home in the end of the semester because the temptation to read it was too great) If you have never stepped into the world of Mitford, you are missing out. It's a delightful little mountainside village in North Carolina, and you follow it through the eyes of its precious Episcopalian priest, Father Tim. By the end of the first page of the first book you'll be in love with Mitford and those who live there. This book, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It could have been the impossibly high expectations I set for it, but my mom and I agreed that it felt rushed. Many big life events were rushed by in a little flashback, which is not the way these books normally feel. So be wary, Mitford fans, but know it's worth a read anyway. I mean, of course it is--who doesn't want to watch Mitford's dear Dooley marry the love of his life??

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Oh, this book. Definitely my favorite of my Christmas reads, this book was magical and renewing. You'll follow Nell on her journey to discover who she really is. Her history was lost in time when she was found in an Australian boatyard at four years old with nothing but a small suitcase to her name, which she was unable to remember. Each chapter changes perspectives from Nell, her mother in the early 1900's, and her granddaughter, still searching for her truth, in the early 2000's. It is a delightful read, with enough mystery to keep you intrigued and enough history to keep it insightful. Fairy tale magic is sprinkled throughout, and this masterpiece will leave you begging for a sequel.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

I've only read two books by Jodi Picoult, and both are set in the world of medical families. After I sobbed my way through My Sister's Keeper you'd think I would have learned, but she understands special needs families in such an intimate way that I'm drawn to those books and fascinated by how completely she understands her subjects. This book is all about Willow, a brilliant and beautiful little girl who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease). Her family adores her, but the strain of her disability has made her parents desperate. They start a wrongful birth lawsuit to try to offset the heavy financial burden, but at what cost to their family? Willow begins to doubt her self-worth and their other daughter feels invisible and begins to take out this pain on herself. As they try to give Willow a better life their own lives begin crumbling. This book hurt. It felt too real. It wasn't so painful I couldn't read it, though; I picked it up just to see if it was worth packing, and I didn't put it down again until it was finished and cried over and across the Florida state line.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

My second favorite book of break, and ranking with my most favorite books of all time. There is a lonely widow. A lonely widower. She calls him and asks him to sleep beside her at night, to talk with her in the dark, to be a companion. It is the simplest of love stories, not really about romance at all, but rather the craving in all of us to never be alone. My heart has been heavily pondering the plight of the lonely lately, probably because I experienced loneliness in entirely new ways in the past semester. This book demands reading--I believe it will soften your heart toward the lonely and give you the courage to love a little harder, and a lot braver.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

This book was meant to be my last book of the summer. I began it with two weeks to read it, but then my sister was hospitalized. And then school started, and it sat on my bookshelf for a couple of months before I opened it. When I did a sweet letter from my mom fell out, and I cried a little realizing how long this book has been patiently waiting on me while my entire life shifted around it. With only two days left of break, I've only read a few pages, but that's okay with me. I've decided to make time for reading this semester. I almost lost my sanity in the past few months, spending every waking moment on biology. Even if it's one page a night, this book is worth the wait. Maeve Binchy always is.

I sincerely hope you pick up one of these books. If you could only choose one, I absolutely recommend Our Souls at Night. It is a brief read and so, so worth it.

Thank you for reading. I consider you a friend.

Your Blogger,

Friday, December 4, 2015

Let's do what people do.

Dear Readers,

My first semester of college has almost ended. Wow. I've sat down multiple times to update you over the course of the semester, but haven't been able to do much on this computer without guilt that I'm not studying or writing a paper know how it goes. I have a lot to do right now, but the world has continued moving while I've been inside "The Bubble" and I've stayed silent for too long. So here are the words that have come to me as of late.

Disclaimer: I don't have any answers. These are just my thoughts, and I've only lived for 18 short years so I realize they aren't the most insightful thoughts in the world, but they are mine. Please take this with a grain of salt and know I'd love your opinion, but not a fight. Thank you.

I'll start big.

The world stood with Paris when it was attacked. It was beautiful to see. Do you know how many people have died in Syria since the violence broke out in 2011? More than 250,000. 250,000 parents, children, uncles, grandmas, and beloved friends gone. My state, actually both Arizona and Mississippi, oppose Syrian refugees coming in. Why? Because of the Paris attack. Because a man in the attack came in a flood of Syrian refugees.

What happened in Paris was an atrocity, and it is scary to think about letting people in and not knowing what might happen. I'm sort of shocked, though, to see people do a complete turnaround so quickly. How are we so filled with compassion for the French and yet our doors are closed to 11 million Syrians looking for safety?

I don't know what the answer is, however I do know that we, ourselves, were once starving immigrants escaping oppression. I know that not everyone in Syria is a terrorist. I want to share with you something I read on the Facebook page Humans of New York today. This from a Syrian family currently living in Turkey;

“He cried a lot as a baby. By the age of two he wasn’t speaking or eating. Our local doctor didn’t know what was wrong, but we found a good doctor in Damascus, and he told us that our son had autism. The doctor recommended a therapist. On the first day of therapy, he was too scared to even enter the office. But after a few months of treatment, he was able to concentrate and even write the alphabet. He went to therapy every week for the next few years. It was really helping him. He was learning so many things. But when the war came, the roads were closed. We couldn’t go to therapy anymore. The bombs affected him very badly. He gets scared easily. He’s even afraid of the dark. But the bombs scared him very much. He hasn’t been to therapy for years. We have no money or insurance here in Turkey. We are very isolated. It seems that all the progress has been undone. He used to want to learn. He used to get his books out of the bag and bring them to us. But now he just throws them away. He can’t sit still. I’m afraid that we’ve lost too much time now. But my husband is optimistic. He thinks that we will find the right doctor in America.”

The family, courtesy of HONY

America once symbolized hope for us, pilgrims searching for freedom. It breaks my heart that it can't be that for everyone. That family, wow. I can't find words to describe how that touched me--the cruelness of our world, the blessings we experience in the US, how strong they are. Would you let them into your state?

My favorite book, The Book Thief, has a moment that continually pops into my head when I wrestle through what the right answer is in this situation. For those who haven't read it (RUN DON'T WALK TO THE BOOKSTORE NOW), it's about a German family that takes in a foster daughter and a Jew during WWII. Near the end of the book, the father is wondering if risking their lives was really worth it, and Liesel, the foster daughter, answers him in a beautiful way.

We were just being people. That's what people do.

I may not know the answer to the refugee question, but I know in my soul what is right and what is wrong. I don't think many Americans today would act as Liesel's family did if the Holocaust happened all over again in the United States. You probably gasped and are probably mad at me for saying that, but I won't apologize for it because I think it's truth. I think they would be filled with the same fear, the what if they are terrorists. 

I wasn't called to live a comfortable life; Jesus didn't live an easy life. I was called to live radically, with love that knows no limits and forgiveness that never runs out and HOPE so that I can do hard things because I know who hems me in behind and before.

America, God has hemmed you in. He has laid His Hand upon you. Believe in His provision and act like someone died for you so you could live. 

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

Your blogger,


Friday, October 9, 2015

Happy birthday, dear one.

Dearest Readers,

October 9th is my sweet friend's birthday. October 9th is today. You should all eat some cake and play happy music and decorate your house with streamers because life is short and you should eat as much cake as possible but also because today is the day Becca was born and that is SUCH a huge thing to celebrate!

She encouraged young, awkward Claire when I joined a sign language choir and she was my first leader. (Even when I signed "hope" with both hands on opposite sides of my head...:))

She encouraged me again when I moved into a leadership role in the choir.

And she encouraged me again when I moved on from the sweet group.

She was always the first one to call when my brothers were hospitalized.

She comforted me when I visited her in the hospital because she knew I was worried.

She didn't think it was weird to play 50's music all afternoon and make french fries and milkshakes.

She drank said milkshakes with a smile even though they were basically just chocolate milk.

She didn't mind when I bought the same shoes she had because I liked them.

Or when I made her go buy some shoes to match mine.

She took me to Disneyland. Twice.

She made me laugh when I tried to tell her we were moving and couldn't get the words out because I was trying not to cry.

She let me invite myself to her house all the time....

Especially the last week we were in Arizona when I was at her house almost everyday. Even then it wasn't enough time. One of those days (actually two because our {precious} videographer may or may not have filmed it crooked the first time...haha) we made a video signing For Good from Wicked. You can watch it here.
It was the perfect way to wrap up six wonderful years together in Arizona. The words are everything I would have said if I was as eloquent as Stephen Schwartz!

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part; so much of me is made of what I learned from you; you'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end; I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.

Becca, Happy 23 years!  Thank you for being your wonderful self--you bless my heart. I am so, so thankful for you and for our years being within driving distance. I can't wait to cram enough memories for another scrapbook into my next visit. I love you to Arizona and back.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hey yeah, Welcome to the Real World...

Nobody told you it was gonna be hard...I barely started now I'm falling apart.

(If you don't recognize it, those brilliant lyrics were written by Rob Thomas and I'm convinced he wrote them for all college freshmen. Here's the video:

Hey there, sweet Readers,

I really don't have time to be writing this. But my laptop is sitting on top of my open algebra textbook so does it kind of count as studying?? Really, I was just having one of those nights when that song came on and I just had to laugh because it fits my life so perfectly right now.

But then a boom shake now I'm awake; I think it's over but it's everyday and it's a pretty fine mess I'm starting to make...I couldn't tell you I was never afraid.

College is beautiful. I have met some precious friends and made incredible memories already. It's also exhausting. I've embarrassed myself more times than I care to admit in front of those friends because Claire after 11:00 gets a little delirious. College is inspiring. I see so many upperclassmen and professors and even peers doing such incredible things with their lives. College is a lot harder than I thought it would be. The pressure I put on myself to make those lifelong friends everyone talks about and get good enough grades to get into OT school has my head spinning most days. College is lonely. I miss my family and Arizona and doing everything with my brothers. I have gone home every single week but it still isn't enough because home is so different now. College is fun. I rushed Swannanoa and am loving getting to know my sisters. I would give an arm AND a leg for a day where I could just sit on the couch and read a fiction book without having a rush event or homework, though.
Swannanoa's Coke Party!

Miss Trish came to Clinton for the Back to the Bricks festival
the first week of school! 

Our first Game Day! And we BOTH rushed ST!

It's a lot of things; a lot of normal things that every freshman ever has felt, but I just owed you a blog post and needed to write for a moment so here you have this. And for any high schoolers reading, let me just go ahead and tell you: this semi-real world is really, really, really, really hard so prepare now and start memorizing metabolic pathways and amino acid chains before you graduate.

One time I went home and they had alfajores for me :)

Your exhausted yet thankful blogger,

Saturday, July 11, 2015

If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.

This little fella followed us around at the archery range after my orientation. Change really can be beautiful--especially change that leads to butterflies. And Mississippi College. :) 

Dear Readers,

In all of the moving and unpacking and organizing, I've sifted through many journals (if you haven't guessed by now I love to write :) ). Looking through one the other day, I found the entry when my dad first told us he had a job offer in Mississippi.

Wow. This past year has been insane for our family. If you could see the places I sent my SAT scores to, you would laugh out loud. I had zero clue as to where we would end up so sent my scores out to so many schools in such random parts of the country.

The hardest part was being unable to tell our friends. People seemed to think we thought the two Christian schools in our state weren't "good enough", and that sparked anger.  Everyone's favorite question to ask high school seniors is, "Where are you going to college?". If only they knew that question made my hands shake and my head spin! I wanted to just shout the news from the rooftops that we had no idea where we were going to school but that we were pretty certain we were moving somewhere.

But I couldn't.

 It was emotionally exhausting. 

I learned a lot. I had to trust God, the master planner, with the fact that I couldn't make a plan. I had to believe that He knew what He was doing even when it was so hard to say goodbye. I forced myself to remember that His plans are good.

And here we are. Mississippi.

I have to admit I doubted the goodness of God's plans several times on the way over here--it was HARD to say goodbye, and I ABHOR change. I wondered what was wrong with me the first couple of weeks here when I was just sad and anxious and wishing I could just have one more year to be homeschooled.

And then orientation happened.

My mom jokes I signed my name in blood the first time I visited Mississippi College, but it holds an element of truth because it was the first school I visited that felt  like home. It was the first school I visited that I was truly sad to leave. It was that ambiguous "just knowing this is it" feeling everyone had told me I would have when I found it but that after five states I was beginning to doubt I ever would. As my {incredible} advisor put it yesterday (referring to her decision to attend MC and mine)...I knew I had found my people.

There aren't enough adjectives in the world to describe how wonderful orientation was, but since I'm a Spanish major I guess asombroso will do. It was definitely asombroso. Amazing.

I automatically had a sweet friend to whisper and laugh and text in Spanish with in my fellow Spanish major. Getting to be on campus preparing for classes to start in a little over a month felt unreal. I've been dreaming of MC for a year now and it's actually here! I made my first Cups run with my student ID, made my schedule, got lost in the stairwell every time we took them, and stayed in the residence halls.

If you asked me how I was doing right now, I would mimic my host dad in Argentina and say, "muy contento".

I find it incredible to think God has always known this moment would happen. That He knew the tiny little baby in the NICU who everyone thought was having seizures would go to Mississippi College.The doubts I felt this past year are totally erased--this crazy rollercoaster of a path to MS reminded me that His plans might be even better when you have to just jump in faith. I'm over the moon about where I landed.

Your blogger,

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cookbooks and joy kind of go together.

Dearest Readers, 

I'm long past overdue for a blog post, I know. Forgive me. There have just been too many words hovering in the edge of my fingertips with this move. I've painted the pages of my journal with them, but they're too incoherent to publish for the world. 

It's a hodgepodge of emotions. I'm barely getting used to the rhythm of this new life and soon I'll be moving again. I feel unprepared and as if I'm just floating in space--without roots and with little idea as to what tomorrow will look like. I'm also excited when I think about Spanish conversations and new perspectives on literature to listen to and new essays to write. But also terrified I'm going to fail. I keep studying Spanish as if that's the anchor that determines my success. 

I love the sheltering trees and the lovely people who have welcomed us warmly. I love my school and know I'll love orientation this week. I love our across the street neighbor and the fact that I was able to take an empty measuring cup to his house last night and return with one filled with sugar. I love that he kept his porch lights on for me as I promised to return bearing cookies. 

See? A hodgepodge. 

Tonight I was looking through my most beloved cookbook--The Mitford Cookbook. The Mitford books are my high school years--I strived to create Mitfird in our corner of Arizona everyday. 

The cookbook is peppered with notes--occasions when I made this, how I changed that, ways to improve it. Many talked of surgery.  "I made these the night before Benjamin's surgery..." "I took Mom a mini loaf in the hospital..." "Made on Mason's first day home!" 

Wow, those brought back a flood of memories. I baked because those summers were hard. I baked with my iPod plugged into my ears because I couldn't listen to how painful therapy was. I baked because I missed my mom so much it hurt. I baked because I was scared and sad. 

And my notes reminded me of the joy that we fought so hard for those summers. The night before Benjamin's surgery when we played games and ate brownies that were way too rich. That day in Mason's recovery when we shot a rocket into the air. When I got up early his first day home to make Cynthia's vanilla muffins...and then wrote about it in my book. 

Those surgery summers made up a large part of my childhood. And some people might say that's sad. But not me. Would I love to go back in time and change it so my brothers didn't have to hurt so much? So my parents didn't have to worry? Yes. A million times yes. But those summers taught me something so incredible. They taught me that joy is ALWAYS ALWAYS there. 

It just might take an old cookbook to find it. 

Your blogger, 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Making Church Safe for Special Needs Families

Dear Readers,

This blogpost has been floating around in my head since last Sunday, and every time I've thought of it the word "safe" has come along with it. With the word "safe", I've thought of this quote from Narnia:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

That has absolutely zero relevance to the rest of this post, but I love that quote. I love Aslan and all that he represents. But that's a post for another day...

Today I want to tell you a story.

Last Sunday I was enjoying my time in the sensory room for kids with special needs. We have Sunday School, games, snacks, and the occasional craft in that room. There's a lot of laughter and a lot of singing and a lot of smiles. The Special Ministries at our church is so welcoming; and although my brothers don't need to attend their classes, the fact that they were even offered was the biggest reason we chose to attend there. We loved that this church valued its members and families with special needs and went out of their way to make them welcome. Special Ministries is truly an amazing place. 

Sometimes the walk into the classroom isn't so amazing, though. I sometimes feel like special needs families experience life through a bubble, looking out on the world of civilians. It's hard when they have to step out of their bubble, because most of the civilians just don't understand. 

Last Sunday one of our dads (whose daughter is one of my favorite students) walked into the classroom with a sigh. He explained that his daughter had had a meltdown just feet from the door, but that they were working to get her in as soon as possible. I hesitated in my ball-throwing for a moment before stepping out after him. I didn't really have a game plan, I just thought I'd see if a different face could capture her interest enough to get her up off the ground. I felt the bubble pop as I walked toward this family, with their daughter laying on the ground with her shirt covering her face. 

She was unimpressed with my excitement over all the fun things we had planned in class that day. We got her up, and she bolted. Right into a family. I only looked at the woman she ran into for a split second before racing after her, but that split second was enough that the tears came hot in my eyes. If they fell they dried quickly, though, because I was running and reaching and trying to stop her from getting hit by a car as she rushed into the road. Her dad intercepted us and we formed a barrier around her as they tried to locate their car. The whole time, I could hear her mom behind us,  explaining, apologizing,"She has Autism". 

When I walked back up from their car, I looked around kind of stunned. There were probably five men working as "greeters" and traffic control in the area we had just raced through--yet none of them assisted. I have a feeling one or more of them asked what was wrong, hence the mom's constant explanations. 

But still.

If you saw a five year old running out into the road about to get hit by a car, would you wait to ask permission before running after it? 

No. You would run. You would want to protect that little one.

This student is my age and size, so it didn't make sense to the viewers that she was running. They stared and gasped and asked if everything was alright, but they didn't jump in and meet the need. Their stares and questions made it worse. 

This family needed someone to sprint after their daughter and hold her from running farther. There were five men standing around.

Yet it was left to an 18 year old in heels to make the attempt, and fail. 

If her dad hadn't of been there she would have gone farther.

The look on that woman's face that brought me to tears? There was no concern. It was anger. Her expression was that of hot red anger, the kind of anger someone giving you the finger on the freeway might display. 

This is so far from being okay. 

The special needs families aren't the ones who created the bubble--the civilians did. They pushed these families into their bubble by their lack of compassion, unwillingness to educate themselves, and their fear. 

I don't think they did it maliciously. No one standing around that Sunday understood what was going on--they weren't making a hate statement against Autism. The problem isn't the civilians themselves, it's the lack of education. 

I'm so heartbroken that my church offers this beautiful safe haven for these families, yet one step outside that door and they are met with ignorance and misunderstanding. 

Want to know how to make your church accessible to special needs families? Don't just create another bubble for them; educate the general populace of your church. Teach a class on disabilities and how to serve these members of our church, our world. Require everyone who becomes a member to spend one Sunday in the Special Ministries classroom. Make pamphlets with one sentence blurbs of information about the five most common disabilities in your church. Don't want to put that much energy into it? Get pamphlets from Joni and Friends. 

Maybe if these resources were in place, one of the greeters would have recognized this student from his one Sunday in the classroom and chased after her. Another might recall that one-sentence fact about Autism and realize he could help. 

And maybe we just need to wake up to the needs of people (with and without special needs) in general. Are we all so self-focused (even on our way to church), that we don't see the need right before our faces? Angry-eyed woman walked right into us--this dear student didn't have to go far to run into her. She was right behind me, with my butt in the air as I bent over and tried to get my friend off the ground. This student's whole family surrounded her, I honestly have no idea how angry-eyed missed it. 

When you go to church next Sunday, walk around with your eyes wide open. You don't even have to step inside the Special Ministries classroom or chase after a student to make a puncture in the bubble--just smile. Wave. Ask how they're doing. Life can be hard for these families, and many of them leave the church due to the lack of understanding and compassion. Please don't be one of the ones who sends them away. 

You can make it safe. Your Blogger,


Friday, May 8, 2015

A semester of stardust...

They joined Moezart first...and loved it so much they convinced me to join them!
It's been amazing to act alongside them!!!

Dearest Readers,

I am so beyond tired, but this week has been so full of emotions that I fear I might spontaneously combust without getting something onto paper.

Last Sunday was our graduation party. We saw several dear ones we haven't seen in years. It was wonderful.

This week was our last ever tech week with MoezArt. It was hard. It was beautiful. I cried a lot and laughed even more.

The MoezArt family and our family (minus Dad who had to work). Every single one of them has been
such a blessing in our lives!

On Tuesday our lovely cast threw us the greatest surprise going away party ever. We could not have been more surprised. I was so grumpy to be at rehearsal two hours early and complained the whole car drive over that I just needed to do my Spanish fact, the split second before the cast ran in screaming, I turned to my mom and sighed, "I left my pencil in the car. I'm going to go get it."

Haha I never did get to that homework...but it was so worth it.

Look at these beautiful people. Not just our cast, but our friends from other productions who they knew we would want there. Thank you, dear ones, for taking time out of your Tuesday for us. You gifted us with the sweetest memories and started off our tech week the perfect way. Thank you for making us feel loved.

The performances were wonderful. I love dancing with this group of girls, and it was incredible to look around onstage and just savor these last precious moments. 


When I first joined MoezArt I was terrified of acting, singing, but especially dancing. I had danced with a company when we first moved to AZ that taught me a lot--jazz, tap, ballet--but left me with a lot of insecurities and fears about dancing because I was never the most graceful and never even close to being the skinniest. My career with them ended painfully, and ever since then I had become a self-imposed stick in the mud. Oh, that stick was stuck deep. I came to MoezArt as the one who couldn't even square dance without flaming cheeks. My dad called me (ok, he still does...:)) Amish. It was bad.

It took two and a half years, but the amazingness that is MoezArt coerced me to stop being so Amish. I auditioned for the Jester in Once Upon a Mattress last spring just because that character had a tap number.

My sweet choreographer was so incredibly encouraging and loving (and patient!!), she gave me the confidence I had lost those years before, and when I came back this semester I was determined to audition for the chorus girl team. (Love you much Jess <3)

I'm pretty sure I failed that first mock was pretty terrible. Like tripping on air terrible (remember that part about me not being graceful?!). I messaged my friend Alli that night (who is also a chorus girl and one of my favorite people)  so heartbroken. She was so wonderful and told me that even if I wasn't going to be a flapper, she'd get me a fabulous flapper dress for the show. I spent most of Christmas break practicing the audition choreography in corners of the house where no one would watch me. ;)

I think I frowned through my whole audition because I was so concentrated on getting the steps right and so nervous to have people watching me...but by a miracle (maybe Jessica's sympathy? Haha), I was a chorus girl!

This experience has been one of the most incredible experiences of Moezart for me (right up there with Fiddler on the Roof!). Our Saturday studio rehearsals...laughing through the blood, sweat, and tears...turning the disco lights on for our final rehearsal...the tight bond of the sisterhood of the traveling character shoes...I've never loved doing crunches so much than with these girls.
We joined some of my other dear friends for a night of swing dancing after our final show. Oh my gosh, I love them for this! They were all so so tired, but every single one of them joined us for a lovely dinner, and then several more went swing dancing. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to end this incredible semester.

I realize these are lifelong friendships. I can't even put into words how amazing swing dancing was. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

The night didn't end until 1:30 AM for those of us who joined the rest of the cast for a late night movie. I sat next to two precious friends who I know didn't really care about the movie. When I asked one why she didn't just go home after swing dancing, she said; "Because I wanted to spend time with you." My heart is oh so full.

Rockin it ;)

I'm so thankful for every one of these girls who have blessed me more than I can ever say and have made me not such a stick-in-the-mud. I'm thankful for every single hug.

Every goodbye is so hard for me. But I know that just as God had such a perfectly timed plan for us to meet, He has a plan for us to come together again. I know it's really just a "See you later". Maybe not a "See you soon" like I want, but someday.

They are so very precious to me!

This was long and filled with lots of rambling thoughts, so I guess I should wrap it up...

Know that you are loved. Know that I will always remember you with so much joy and love that it will probably leak out of my eyes. Thank you for encouraging me and loving me. Your friendships have shaped who I am.

You will always have a home in Mississippi! Come see me!

Now I'm off to my eighth Stardust performance...because I couldn't say goodbye last week (when I wrote most of this), my amazing parents let me sneak onstage for four more performances...after all, we don't move until later this month! :)

HUGS, Claire



    Friday, April 17, 2015

    A new love for you to love!

    Dear Readers, 

    I'm eighteen today, so I bring you a child near and dear to my heart. 


    This beautiful girl is six years old and has Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. She was found abandoned at a year old, and her initial report said she was unable to support herself/sit unassisted/ hold her head up. All common in babies with CP. All just like my brother. Each birthday when I write this post I weep for the similarities. I wish all children had the opportunities we had, the parents we have, the support we's unfair. 

    But her story doesn't have to have a sad ending. YOU can give her the hope of a future. 

    One look at that bright smile,  and it's clear she doesn't let her disability dim her joy!! This girl is such a bright light but it's hidden in an orphanage. 

    An orphanage worker says the following about sweet girlie: 

    She’s doing really well. She’s on medication to control her seizures and it’s working fine. I have never seen her have a seizure, but I believe it has happened occasionally when she has been febrile with a cold or virus. Of course, does need her medication to keep her stable.  She loves her wheel chair.

    Annie’s personality is loving and sweet. She is happiest if somebody will just spend time with her – laughing playing and cuddling her. But she is not whiny when other kids are getting the attention either, so she would be a great fit for a large family. She just enjoys movement and action, whether it involves her, or is going on around her.  One of her favorite games is when you push her wheelchair really fast between two people – she laughs so much at this!

    She’s bright and has a great understanding of everything, but cannot communicate verbally.

    Her disability is definitely severe, but she is emotionally very healthy. We would so love to see her in a family. Eventually she will need to leave our home, as she is absolutely not palliative, and we desperately want to see that move take her to a loving home! She is really such a beautiful child. She is like sunshine, she warms everyone around her. Even though she is trapped inside a body which will not do what she needs it to do, the beauty of her personality will not be contained. If we can find a family who can manage her physical needs, they will be so blessed by this precious daughter. It makes me so sad to think of her future if she has to remain in  her birth country.


    She will likely die before she's eighteen is she stays in her country. She will probably be abused, neglected, left in a crib until pneumonia and infection from bed sores kill her. 

    Don't let that be her future. Give her the chance to change the world.

    Print her picture and hang it on your fridge. Share her story. Share my post. Pray, pray, pray for her and her future family. 

    I've gotten to see a child I prayed for come home, and man, was that the most beautiful redemptive work of God. She went home to a family in her own country, praise Jesus. I want you to get to watch that miracle in Annie's life, dear Readers. Please don't forget her face. 

    Much love,
    Your now-an-adult blogger

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    One last post while I'm still a kid

    Dearest Readers, 
    It's our birthday week!! I've been perusing Reece's Rainbow all week in order to bring you a child in need like I usually do on my birthday. There are so many children, it literally does take days to pick just one. 

    But here I am typing on the tiny screen on my phone (so please ignore the bad formatting!!), and I'm feeling compelled to share another thought with you. 

    My family LOVES birthdays. So we're in California right now celebrating the big one-eight in such a fun way. Benjamin and Mason are at a Star Wars convention with two friends and Dad, and the girls have been exploring LA. Today we found the sweetest Argentine restaurant and grocery store and stocked up on alfajores and dulce de leche (while I squealed!!), and had the most delicious lunch of empanadas, a split Milanesa Sandwhich, and of course Coca Cola. :) We took tons of pictures and I shook from the excitement. I was in Heaven. 

    Then we set out to get manis/pedis. It's one of our favorite rare treats, so we drove around for a while until we found a cute little salon. 

    I read a book several years ago about a young girl who immigrated from Vietnam, and so whenever I hear Vietnamese flowing gracefully through those salons I ponder these dear women and their histories. Today God opened up an opportunity for me to hear one of those stories. This dear woman poured out her story as she massaged my hands and smoothed on polish. Stories of oppression and death, escape and loneliness in this country but no possibility of returning to her own. She is amazingly brave, and I hope she realizes that. She wished me luck in life since we won't meet again. She told me she knew I'd forget her, but I promised I wouldn't. That's the thing about opening up a piece of yourself to someone--she left an imprint on me, too. 

    One part of her story struck me especially. I had asked if she knew any English when she came, and she said she knew a little because she had gone to a Catholic school where a missionary taught English. Even though many years have passed, she smiled as she remembered and told me her teacher's full name. She met her again when she came to the States. 

    This missionary still brings a smile to her face. She might not have accomplished her original purpose (my friend wore a Buddha around her neck), but oh man, did she make an impact. 

    My friend told me no client had ever asked her her story before. 

    If you are serving across the ocean somewhere, know that God is using you, even when you don't see results. 

    If you want to cross the ocean but are afraid, trust God to walk with you across the water. He will walk with you, and you'll leave His mark--and yours--even if you're only there for a short-term high school mission trip. 

    You may not have the opportunity to cross an ocean and teach an oppressed people English. But you do have the opportunity to show people that they matter every. Single. Day. 

    Ask the woman painting your toes where she's from. 

    Ask the cashier at the grocery store how they're doing. 

    Don't we all want our stories to be known?? Share yours. And write theirs down, too. 

    Much love, 
    Your almost-an-adult blogger 

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    It's World Day of Social Justice. Let's make a dent.

    Colón, Argentina: There is something so beautiful about clothes hanging out to dry.
    But then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everything in Argentina looks
    beautiful to me! 
    Dearest Readers,

    Earlier this week I got a letter from Desy, a Compassion sponsored child in Indonesia who I get the privilege of writing to because her sponsor doesn't have time. Her letter was precious. She told me she longed for "news from your country". She also told me that the price for fuel has risen in her country, and that she has to stand in line in the heat for fuel.

    What news should I have sent her of my country? Should I have told her about the Oscars, where the dresses the women wear will cost more money than she'll likely ever have in her life? Amy Adams's ensemble at the Oscars last year cost about 1.5 million dollars. (source) I love the Oscars. Benjamin really loves the Oscars. It's a fun family night for us all. But really?

    I didn't. I told her of the record-breaking cold and that we will have Presidential elections next year. Pathetic, I know. But when I scrolled through our news the decadence and privilege of this country we live in smacked me in the face. I told her my plans to go to college, and felt guilt. She's smart. She wins Bible quizzes and is a straight A student. But will she ever get a chance to go to college?

    Precious girl in an Argentine orphanage. 
    I got to love on so many little ones while at an orphanage in Argentina. I walked around with the above little girl, and she talked non-stop. I think she was just soaking up the one-on-one attention. I understood very, very little of what she said--but I did understand when we walked up to the gates of the property, and she said she wasn't allowed to go past there. She also pointed out the nice cars and said there are often a lot of them coming and going from her orphanage to somewhere. She didn't care that I didn't understand; she was just so thankful for the love. 

    Adoption in Argentina is difficult. It is not a Hague Adoption Convention partner, so adoptions are domestic only. You must have been married for at least three years and have no children of your own. If you prove to a court that you are physically unable to have children they might consider allowing you to adopt before you meet the three year anniversary. The latest data I can find on adoption statistics for Argentina is 2011. There was one adoption in 2011. The next year I could find data for was 2009: again, one adoption. Both times it was a little girl under five years old. (source) The girls I played hide-and-seek with for hours were much older than five. 

    Today is the World Day of Social Justice. There is no justice in those statistics. There is no justice in the fact that one of those Oscar dresses could provide Desy with all she needs for the rest of her life. The lack of justice in this world breaks my heart. 

    A bike ride at the orphanage

    I wish with all my heart that I could start a home for every single unwanted child in Argentina; I want to shower love on them everyday of their lives and listen to them chatter on and on. I want them to know how loved they are and to take them to church at La Puerta Abierta and to give them opportunities and dreams and the whole world at their fingertips. 

    I wish Amy Adams would forego the expensive dress and opt for one from Target and give Desy all of that money she was going to spend. I wish Desy didn't have to stand in line for fuel in the heat. I wish she could dream and plan to change the world without poverty restricting her. 

    I wish, I wish, I wish...I wish a million things that will never happen. 

    We don't have to just sit by and let it happen, though. I might not be able to gather all of Argentina's children in my arms, but you know what we can do? We can answer the call God has laid on all of our hearts for orphan care. 

    "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." ~James 1:27

    Visit the orphans. Go on a mission trip with your church. Sponsor a child through Love without Boundaries so they can get the life-saving surgery they need. Send diapers to Maria's House of Hope in China, or become a prayer partner and receive a monthly email with a new child to pray for. Pick a child on Reece's Rainbow to advocate for on Facebook, your blog, or at your church. I know none of these options allow you to care for an orphan in Argentina, and I'm so sorry. I can't find anything like that, but will keep looking. 

    You know what you can do for the orphans in Argentina, though? You can pray. Pray everyday. Pray that their government will change their adoption laws and allow more families to adopt. 

    And for Desy? She gets money from her sponsor each month that, while not as much as Amy Adams's dress, gives her opportunities she wouldn't otherwise have. It pays her school fees, as well as the cost of her uniform. She is able to attend a church-based program that gives her Christian counsel and encouragement, and the chance to learn about Jesus. She gets medical care and is taught daily living skills. Our sponsored child continually tells us that his mother thanks the Lord daily for us, and that he loves us so much that he prays daily that the Lord will allow us to meet face to face someday. He is so full of love. The sponsored child/sponsor relationship is so precious. 

    You can give another child that opportunity. While it won't change the fact that they live in poverty, it will give them a chance to rise up out of that poverty. You can partner with Compassion to give hope to a child here

    This world is cruelly unjust, but we are called to make a dent in the wrong. How will you make your dent? 

    Your Blogger,

    "For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you!" ~Psalm 9:18-19