Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Value of Camp

Dearest Readers,

In May, I entered a room full of strangers, eyes searching for the three people I knew. It seems so strange to think back on that. Staff training was almost two weeks long, and we learned so many beautiful things, and I got to know the people around me more and more. But sometimes I felt kind of panicked when I looked around and realized how little I knew about the people around me--two weeks is so short to know anyone, much less over 90 people. Was I even allowed to call them friends yet?

We played a "name game" so that all of us could shed our everyday name for a camp nickname. As we played, we stopped calling someone their real name and began only using their camp name, trying to get it down before campers came. Every game we played my stomach flipped over a little wondering if it was my turn. I think I pegged too many of my mixed emotions--fear, excitement, overwhelmed, amazement--to my name. I wanted to feel connected to this group of people, and was doubting if I was even known at all.

So when I sat onstage with my dear friend Hailey, and heard names like "Milo!" and "Abuelita!" and "Taco!" shouted, I held back tears. I was honored that anyone would take time to consider a name for me at all, but it just reminded me how very new I was to all of these people, and how new they were to me.

But then I heard the all too familiar shout one last time--"I have a name!"

Silver Sunrise. That was the name presented by two of my dear friends. My friend who shares mate with me chose silver because it's the beginnings of the word Argentina (argentum). Sunrise came from the word sonrisa for smile, from the friend I raked and shoveled and made a horse trail out of dirt with.

I was known. People knew me there, even after just a couple of weeks. I could call them friends, and more than that even--soon they became family.

It was really hard to leave that community. My mom, who has known the value of camp since her college days working at Camp Garaywa, and I were talking about what a unique place camp is the other day. In a different way than anywhere else, you can be silly together and you work hard toward a common goal together and you live in community together. There's so much value in camp. It's the most beautiful mix of what it means to live.

We threw water balloons and carried campers to the water slide as many times as their hearts wanted (and our arms could) and later jumped down the slide into the lake.

We danced and dyed our hair pink and painted sparkles on our faces that ran down after a couple minutes of dancing with our diva campers. 

We washed heads and held hands when it was scary to be away from home and ran together calling for the nurse in the middle of seizures. 

We made safe places to share our hearts and talked about "what made you belly laugh this week" and let awkward silences be beautiful. 

We dressed like princesses and rockstars? and acted ridiculous just to hear laughter bubble out of lips that never speak words. 

Sometimes we all gathered to tell our favorite campers goodbye, sometimes we cried and prayed and held onto each other when we had to send them home to a place lacking in love. 

We were brave and we asked our campers to face their fears while boldly facing our own. 

We were fightalongsiders this summer. The theme for camp was "Alive!" and it couldn't have been more perfect. Camp Blessing this summer showed me a more authentic way of living--you can tell people how much you love them and you can dance your heart out and let mud stay between your toes for a while and even if you haven't showered in a couple days and look like you haven't slept, you'll still be loved. There was no judgment, just love. Like a family. And though I keep using the past tense, I know these dear ones are fightalongsiders for life. 

There's nowhere I would have rather been this summer. Here's to taking my favorite parts of camp and trying to make the "real world" look more like Camp Blessing--a place where everyone is seen as capable, even if you can't communicate with words or you learn differently or you've never worked at camp before. A place of authentic love.

Your Blogger,
Claire aka Sonrisa

Monday, July 17, 2017

Crossing the divide

Dear Readers,

Over spring break my siblings, mom, and I piled into our van and drove the 935 miles to Allende, Nuevo León, Mexico. I never wrote about it on here because there just weren't any words to describe it--amazing and incredible and inolvidable just aren't strong enough adjectives. There are no adjectives capable of describing how beautiful it was. 

But I was flipping through my journal entries this morning and decided one of our stories needed to be shared. 

One night, we were enjoying tacos at this cool little restaurant off the highway. As we were all getting back into the van after our meal, a little girl came up to me. She hesitated for a moment, but bravery shone in her eyes as she asked, "Excuse me, are you of the United States?" 

I saw myself in those shining eyes and the carefully rehearsed line. I, so often, appear that way to hispanohablantes, all trembling anticipation and nervous excitement. I told her I was, and that her english was very good. 

Her dad, as mine would have done, rushed her away and nodded a quick "gracias" at me. Her mom, though, caught my arm: "Qué le preguntó?" 

She wanted to know what her daughter had just asked me. There was a momentary divide between mom and daughter. 

We are in Disney World right now, and there are masses of hispanohablantes. I've loved getting to speak Spanish here and there, but I haven't always loved the divides I've seen between english-speakers and these hispanohablantes. One afternoon my family and I waited in the wheelchair entrance (aka the exit for everyone else) and a woman frantically shoved past us to the cast member directing us. "Dónde está la cola? Dónde?" Honestly, everyone working at Disney World should be familiar with this phrase. And even if not, you would think it isn't too difficult to surmise given the circumstances. This cast member, though, backed away, shaking his head and saying "I don't know, I don't know." His response to the divide was flustered confusion.  I was honored to be able to explain the situation to her, but as she walked away I realized that I was only one person in a mass of people who didn't understand her, and one person was not enough. 

Later on in the trip, we sat in the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor--an interactive comedy show. Each time the monster on stage called on a guest who only spoke Spanish, and their faces got redder and redder as they were put on the spot and didn't understand the questions. 

So often, in these scenarios, the gut reaction of many to the divide is annoyance and laughter. And when it is, I so wish I could flip the tables for every single English-speaking American, and place them in Mexico, and let them feel the way it feels to be confused and isolated by the language they speak. Actually, not once did I ever feel like we were bothering anyone with the English we spoke so loudly in Mexico. We were met with only love. 

That moment with the mom and daughter was so profound for me. I didn't take for granted the privilege that I was able to understand and communicate with both. I also noticed the grace with which the mom asked me her question. All the time I hear people, in reference to the musical sounds of Spanish being spoken around them, say: "I just hope they aren't talking about me." There's this anger, almost, that they would be so audacious as to speak a language that you don't understand, that doesn't belong here. Yet there was no anger in that mom's voice, no anger at the fact that we were taking up a large portion of the restaurant, speaking a language she didn't understand so loudly that her daughter took notice. There was just grace, and curiosity, and a desire to be included. 

Especially in this season of our nation's history, the divides are growing between our borders and the countries around us. This doesn't just happen, though. It is a conscious choice. That mom in Mexico made a choice in how she responded to us. 

I want to challenge you to respond in love, too, wherever and whenever you can. Love with the way you respond and the words you use. And while you're at it, learn a couple phrases in Spanish--not just because 37 million people in the US speak it, but because it is truly beautiful. 

Con todo mi amor, 
Your Blogger

Monday, June 26, 2017

Camp Blessing

Dearest Readers,

Every week of camp has left me feeling something different, but some of the emotions are always the same. I always feel the same sadness when my campers leave. Their parents just whisk them away and suddenly the ones who have made up my world for five days are gone, and I feel very bereft. I always feel a little bit (or sometimes, like this week, a lot) of failure for all the things I wish had happened and the conversations I wish I had gotten to have. I also always feel an overwhelming sense of wonder that this is the life I get to live. That even as these precious ones are leaving, I know another group will be here in just a couple days. I feel like squeezing my co-cabin leader really hard (and often do) because she showed me so much of Jesus in our week together and getting to serve these amazing kids and love on their SOTKs (servants of the King) together is the most beautiful thing ever.

Camp has been so much more than I ever imagined. It has been simply incredible. I want the friends I’ve made here to follow me around for the rest of my life. I’ve learned a lot about living with purpose because you only have a few days with these campers and SOTKs. I’m also learning so much about praying expectantly. I’ve read so many books about missionaries and the ways God fulfills promises and does amazing things on the mission field. The same things are happening here at camp, and I want to keep praying expectant prayers even after I leave. Everything here is tailored to fit people with disabilities—even the way we applaud each other, by clasping our hands together above our heads and shouting “O”—a standing ovation that you can do sitting, even if you can’t clap or if the sound of clapping is too much for you. I love living in a world like this.

A new emotion I felt this week was frustration at unchanged hearts. I’m getting to live in a world this summer where people with disabilities are viewed as perfect and beautifully and wonderfully made—and it’s amazing. But we also get new volunteers each week, and sometimes that isn’t the way they see our campers. I’ve struggled this weekend with so much anger and hurt and wondering at why I can’t better communicate how much I love these people in a way that makes everyone around me love them, too.

I started writing this to process that—the impossible struggle of living in a world that doesn’t view these people the same way. But last night, we stood outside and let the rain run down our hair and onto our feet and worshipped, and God changed my heart. I realized I had been focusing so much on all the wrong things.

The night before one of my friends had encouraged me in this struggle—she told me that this battle to try to convince people to see what to me is so obvious but to them is just not is like the way God tries to tell the nonbeliever about His love, or even our own stubborn hearts. He must get oh so very frustrated when He has told me I can trust Him and it’s the simplest truth to Him, and yet for me it will be a struggle to understand for my whole life.

We have little “mailboxes” where staff can write each other encouragrams, and one of my friends wrote and assured me that God was the one who got to change those hearts, not me. Another wrote just with encouragement. And I was held this week as I cried over this failure that hurt really bad. I was met with so much love. That’s what I should be focusing on. This week was really hard, and I do feel like I failed, but camp is probably the perfect place to fail and to hurt, because you are met with an overwhelming amount of love and truths.

I am working on letting go of the fact that I can’t change all hearts to match mine. But I’m also going to celebrate the beautiful gift that there are so many people who see these dear ones with the same eyes—and I get to be surrounded by them this summer. What a joy.

Your blogger,

 Claire (or my camp name—Sonrisa)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

For the right to dream.

Dearest Readers,

I think if you had asked me what my biggest dream was when I was 6 I would have answered, "To be a princess."

I loved princesses because I loved everything pink and girly and sparkly. My mom sewed me flannel bloomers so I could continue my trend of only wearing dresses even during Minnesota's freezing winters.

When I was 12, had you asked me what my biggest dream was, I would have answered, "To be a veterinarian." I was obsessed with animals, and when I rode horses refused to use a crop because I couldn't bear the thought of hurting them. My parents had to distract me from roadkill because if I saw it I would spontaneously burst into sobs.

At 19, I have a myriad of dreams and hopes for my future, but being a veterinarian and a princess aren't included (though I still wear dresses pretty much daily and would leap onto a horse this very moment). I dream of getting to walk beside families like my own and offering encouragement. I dream of being brave and working as a missionary.  I dream of speaking Spanish without a second thought. I dream of writing words that make the world stop for a moment. I dream of changing the way people view disability. I dream of walking out of an orphanage with my child. I dream of raising up little world changers and teaching them from the breakfast table like my mom taught us. I dream of so many things...

And I do not take for granted the ability to dream these fantastic, wide-open dreams. Women didn't even get the right to vote until 1920, friends. So many of the girls before me didn't get a chance to dream. So many girls in other countries don't get to dream big dreams. Let us never take for granted the ability to dream.

So here's to the women who came before us. To the women who moved across the country in a covered wagon and raised their families through the challenge. To the women who marched for our right to vote. To the women who fought for our right to work. To the women who fought for our right to stay home with our babies. To those who still fight to end the wage gap, to those who champion women's education. To the many women around the world who don't get a choice in who they marry. To our moms who taught us to be brave and to be capable, and to our future daughters who I pray we will enable. (Whoa turning this into a poem now)

Thank you for allowing me to dream with my princess dress on.

Here's to the girls. When we raise girls up, we lift society up.

Your Blogger,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I learned: Fall Semester 2016

Dear Readers,

My college attempts at blogging have pretty much failed. There are just so many blogs out there where girls my age reflect on their days at school, and I didn't want to add my voice to the chatter. So I keep refraining from writing reflections on the semester for your sakes, dear readers, only to find that my soul is aching to put my words somewhere beyond the messiness of my journal.

I have long admired Emily P. Freeman, author and blogger over at Chatting at the Sky. In the midst of the busy of the semester I usually lose track of blog reading, but as I've gotten caught up over this delightfully long Christmas break, I found her "What I Learned" lists for each season. It was a simple, lovely way to recount the days past, and when I thought about reviewing my semester that way it seemed a lot less daunting. So, here is my What I Learned list for this semester. I hope you'll start one, too.

1. Telling my own story scares and thrills me. 

In August, right before the school year began (I mean RIGHT before--on move-in day) I spoke at the CP Prep for Life in Texas. I woke up hours in advance to go over the words I already knew and a breath-stealing fear lasted all day. But looking into the moms' eyes as I spoke and they nodded and laughed and even cried, I knew it was so, so worth it. That conference was the most incredible part of my semester. Truly. (Oh and notice how I claimed it as my story? This conference gave me the courage to do that, too.) 

2. Sophomore year is my favorite year (so far). 

I love having roots. I love getting to know & guide the freshmen. I love love my upper level Spanish classes and the wonderful new friendships I've made through them. At last, people who want to speak in Spanish all the time! I love having a Little Sis in Swannanoa. I loved being a rush counselor in ST, too.  I guess you can say I've felt that "sophomore slump" as well, if you consider the many times I procrastinated work until midnight, though... (but it can only go up from here because I'm done with chemistry, right?) 

3. Gratitude for where I am in life

Okay, so this one might not deserve to belong to the past tense, but this semester has continued to teach me gratitude. It's so easy to look forward to the future with fear (I'm practically halfway finished with college! PANIC) or excitement (Oh my goodness look at that sweet baby I WANT ONE), and I'm a big fan of looking forward to things. Sometimes I feel like I spend my life looking forward to things--college, summer, study abroad, the weekend, etc. This semester God has been teaching my heart to first be content with today as I wait on tomorrow. One week in October my parents went to Israel and I spent my nights at home with my brother and sister. After only one week of school + managing everyone's schedules, I was thankful for the mamas and realized I don't really want a baby right now, hehe. :) 

4. I hate diagramming sentences. 

I'd like to say I'll never do it again, but I am an English minor, so we'll see. Is my writing any better after one semester and diagramming 7 pages of writing? 

5. The Gilmore Girls revival hype was better than the actual show.

Now, this sounds like I'm being negative--I'm not. I rate the show 8/10, and seriously loved most of it (the musical thing was a little bizarre?), but I truly loved the hype. Our local popsicle shop turned into Luke's diner for the day, and I skipped my first class (sophomore slump? Maybe) and went with my sister and brother to stand in line for over an hour for a hot cup of {strong} coffee. So worth it. It was so fun. 

6. Elections are hard. Disappointment is harder.

It was thrilling to wake up November 8th to go vote. I texted my friend in Arizona a triumphant selfie with a thumbs up captioned "About to go vote the first female president into office!", and there wasn't a single doubt in my mind about the outcome. Until about 2:00 in the morning the next day. I want you to know that my disappointment isn't about my candidate losing, really it isn't. It's because my heart is aching that anyone would support a man who has belittled women, African-Americans, Muslims, Spanish-speakers, and--the one that hurts my heart the most--people with disabilities. Maybe Trump voters don't make fun of people with disabilities, maybe they don't believe in that dumb wall, but the moment they clicked a check beside his name they condoned his behavior, and that doesn't just hurt--that makes me want to scream. But I know that just as every person Trump has threatened is made in God's image and perfectly loved, so too are the ones who voted for him. So I refuse to let your vote dictate how I love you, and I hope you'll do the same for me. I guess I learned a lot from this election. 

7. Pluto is one year away from being a "senior" dog. 

He had his yearly wellness visit yesterday and they informed me, without a hint of emotion, that we were there for his "senior wellness visit." My face dropped and my eyes filled and I blurted out an ugly "Oh." The technician looked at me out of the corner of her eye with a brisk "Sorry." before she took him away for bloodwork. Maybe I need to work on being less dramatic but man, I love this pup. And if I hadn't already decided not to be a vet, I would have made that decision yesterday. 

8. I will never be able to take enough pictures of trees.

Here's to grass and the leaves that crunch and the trees that are just as beautiful in winter as in summer and fall. 


Thanks for hearing my thoughts! I hope this Spring is wonderful and full of joy and hope. 

So much love, 

Your Blogger

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,