Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Five things that are making me smile right now!

Dear Readers,
     I recently read a sweet blogpost by my friend Sarah over at Journeying with Him, and it inspired me to write one of my own. Her blogpost featured five things that she has been loving lately. Not only did I love hearing these, but the post caused me to think about how important it is to write down the things we are thankful for...and to thank Him who gave them to us! So I changed the title a bit so it wasn't a complete copycat post, ;), and settled down to think about my five.  Here they are:


We had a tea party at a little tea room with our dear friends last week. It was so lovely--beautiful china with little flowers dotting the edges, vintage decorations, and sweet cream, jam, and scones. My favorite part, though, was our hats. The day before the tea party we went to Target and picked out hats, and then to JoAnn's for ribbon and decorations. As you can see from the picture, Cate had a flower, feathers, and a little puff ball not dissimilar from the clover in Seussical. :) Mom and I got the same hat, which I loved because it reminded me of Anne's hat in Anne of Green Gables. Such a sweet time! 

2.) I was surprised with the opportunity to play the Fiddler in Moezart's Fiddler on the Roof! I had wanted to play in the orchestra but wasn't able to be at rehearsals, so it was the sweetest surprise to find out that not only would I play my violin in the show, but I would be the Fiddler! At first it was absolutely terrifying to sit on that roof (aka slanted board) and play, but now I love it. I love this show for so many takes place in Russia, the title character plays my favorite instrument, it's about Jewish culture...and it has wonderful music! It has been a fun two weeks. 

As I was getting ready to leave for my second Fiddler on the Roof rehearsal last week, I was having some serious butterflies thinking about getting back on that roof. As in, my hands shook thinking about it! And so I opened up my devotional and decided to read it before leaving for the night. And this was the verse that I read: "Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.
 In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP 

What a gift that verse was! While I was on the roof that night (and every night since) I repeated that verse in my heart, reminding myself that I was safe up there, leaning on the Lord. And I prayed that He would give me strength to trust and be confident in Him...instead of relying on my own understanding that I was a little too high for comfort. :) 


Have you ever read the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers? You should. I've only read the first two, but these two are so amazing. Absolutely amazing. The first two books are about a young woman named Hadassah. Her story begins in Jerusalem, but ends in Rome. These books really spoke to my heart about forgiveness. Hadassah forgives those who have done such horrible crimes against her with an attitude of "I have forgiven you, therefore the wrong act has completely left my mind for all eternity". As with Redeeming Love and A Lineage of Grace, I found that this book challenged me and encouraged me in my own faith. I can not recommend them enough times to you! Read them. 


Because its summer, we have had time to watch goofy TV shows merely for the sake of watching goofy TV shows. This has been my favorite. This show is about a guy who pays so much attention to the things going on around him that he keeps calling the cops letting them know who the criminal is in the case they're investigating. Finally they are going to arrest him because they think he has to be an accomplice, and in order to save himself from prison, he tells them that he is psychic. And thus begins his new career--he and his friend open up a psychic detective business, and each episode shows a case he has to solve. Laugh out loud hilariousness, folks. 

So there you have it! Five things that have made me smile over these past couple of weeks of summer. What things have made you smile lately??

Thank you, Sarah, for the great idea!! 

Your Blogger, 

Friday, July 19, 2013


Dear Readers,
     So many thoughts are going through my mind right now...
I just read a blog post about the horrible reality of institutions for people with special needs in Eastern Europe. As I think of beautiful Marcia, I shudder to think of the bruises and black eyes she might have, as the author of the post I read's daughter did. What kind of world do we live in that sends five year olds to a life sentence of imprisonment in an institution? Many children die after their first year in the institution. Marcia has been there for about a year, but I have reason to believe that she is still alive. 

This week Mason and I were blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with some of our friends at Vacation Bible School. I had a group of four kids, ages ranging from three to five years old. They were rambunctious and silly, and although I'm exhausted after it's over, I loved getting to shepherd them all week.  I want Marcia to be able to go to VBS, I want her to get to play and laugh. I want her to be in my MiniMoez class, dancing and singing. I want her to be able to go swimming and have her nails painted and wear princess dresses...

I want her to be a little girl, with all the joys my four little kids from VBS get to experience. 

I don't have a way to tie this up in a bow, because her story hasn't been tied up in a bow yet. But I do know that it will be. Someday she will be in Heaven with Jesus, and all of the pain she experienced on this earth will be forgotten. 

Well, I sat down to write a completely different post than I ended up writing. Marcia was just on my heart...and these words came out. So here you have it. 

Please remember to pray for little Marcia, and all the orphans. 

Added after I wrote this post: After writing this, Cate and I walked outside to get the mail. We saw two little baby birds (and by little I mean itsy bitsy) running along the road, frantically chirping. It was easy to see that they were lost from their mother. One little fella took shelter under a car. It broke my heart to see them lost, and I just wished their mother would find them. As I looked at the one under the car, this Bible verse came to mind: 

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7

I was comforted to think that this little bird was not forgotten by God...and as I thought of that verse and how special that bird is to God, I knew Marcia was worth much more than that little creature. God has not forgotten her, either. 
Your blogger,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A love that reaches over countries, languages, and years: One day in Argentina and the billions of adjectives that go with it!

Dear Readers,
   I love Fiction.  Historical fiction is my favorite, although I love mysteries, as well. If you've been reading for a while you know I adore the Mitford series. That is Fiction at its best. :)

I've always loved writing fiction, as well. I have pages and pages of "novels" that I wrote on a whim some weekend. School assignments where we're allowed to pick the subject are my favorite.

I feel like I could write a book about my days in Argentina. The country spurs so many descriptive words in my mind that I long to write out each moment detail by detail! So I thought I'd try a different approach this blog post and give you a view of my last day in Argentina, descriptive essay style. :)


I wake up to the sound of the news in Spanish, a sound that has grown so familiar to me over the past days that I can't help but smile. As I sit up I glance over to see if the sign language interpreter is shown in the right corner of the screen. She is, and I see her hands bend and sway to the flowing motions that make up Argentine Sign Language.

I only watch her for a moment, though, because this is my last morning waking up in this place I love so much, and I'm going to squeeze every moment that I can with my dear host family. I step into the kitchen and hug my host mom and dad just as I've done every morning I've been here. We talk about how we slept and how the day will be cold...without Google Translate. Because God breaks down language barriers, friends.

This morning seems to be no different from any other at first glance.  As I carefully smooth Dulce de Leche on my bread, I see Reynaldo opening the computer. I think of this time last year, when he played "I'm Yours" every morning to wake us up. I think of the days I had listened to that song, remembering and replaying moments of the trip through my mind. I remember the final morning of our trip last year. He played "I'm Yours" one final time as I sat in that same spot, trying to forget the fact that I wouldn't be returning to this kitchen that evening. Transported back to the present, I take a sip of my sweet coffee, savoring the flavor. After all, it is my last morning in Argentina. And lo and behold...

"I'm Yours" comes on. I look up with a huge, ridiculous grin on my face. I practically leap up to the computer, quickly typing how I listened to this song all the time and how much I loved it and how it made me miss Argentina so much. My words didn't even scratch the surface of what I was feeling, though.  I would be back. All those days in the United States I had listened to that song and feared that I would not return to this place. But I did. There I sat, listening to the song once again, only in Argentina. I listened to the song as I ate my toast, thanking the Lord over and over again for His blessings.

I've been awake for less than an hour, and already have four paragraphs of memories. Haha.
Fast forward about thirty minutes...Reynaldo has left to take Nico to school, and Isabella is happily watching cartoons as Renzo sleeps. Viviana readies the house for the day, and I follow her every step.

Hi, my name is Claire, and my love language is quality time. Do you mind if I am your shadow? We talk and laugh and enjoy the morning together. She fixes Isabella's hair so carefully, and when the three of us step out the door that precious little girl looks stunning.

I stop to kiss Renzo in bed, just in case I don't get to see him that evening. That sweet baby boy. I lean over and gently kiss his chubby little cheek, and he looks up at me with those soulful brown eyes. I tell him I love him so much and kiss him again.

Isabella was soooo excited to see her little friend at preschool that day.  As we walked to the bus stop we also talked about her favorite book, a sweet story about "La Vaca Luluz" (a cow named Luluz who is on a quest to find out what noise cows make :)). I could quote the book at this point and so we went along, quoting this cute little book.

Then we boarded the bus. The bus rides are a big part of the Argentina trip for me, as I love the conversations that transpire there. (once again, quality time...)

I guess you may be getting ready for the day to get a move on, though, so I'll breeze by this quickly...

Of course the bus ride is wonderful, Viviana and I talk and I almost get killed by the bus door...haha! It opened rather violently while I was standing in its almost knocked me over...and then I couldn't stop laughing so that was a safety issue for those around me, haha! But I made it to church all in one piece. ;) Although I longed to stay home with my family, I told dear Viviana goodbye and sat to wait for everyone else to get there. I had very low expectations for this day, since it was the last day after all. Actually, though, I was pleasantly surprised by the day.

Our dear friend Pali and her daughters came along with us, and so when we went into La Boca to shop, I went with them and another girl from our team. We spent the afternoon together, searching for the right gifts for our family members and enjoying time together. Such a sweet time.

Fast forward to lunch--I ate a bite of cow intestines because I knew Mason would have eaten them if he was there. Although I didn't throw up or anything, the texture was pretty disconcerting. I was excited to tell him that I had tried it, though, so it was worth it.

Fast forward once again to the church--I knock on the door and who should answer it but a dear friend who I thought I wouldn't be seeing again! I was so excited to see her one last time, and couldn't hug her enough. She was so kind to give me some earrings she had crocheted to take home to my mom and sister. (which they adore!)

Then the goodbyes...we had a blissful hour in which we pretended that they weren't going to happen. We talked about our day, dear Pali took some sweet family pictures of us, and I hugged each member of my family about a dozen times. Renzo gained some adoring fans and we had such a sweet time together.

Then Diego called all the families together for a time of prayer and opportunity to share special moments of the trip. I held Renzo in my lap as he ate crackers, and listened to the families share. I looked down at this happy little boy and was just thankful for the moment.

Then my host dad stood up and asked me to join him. He put his arm around me and began talking, and I just stared at the floor as what he said was translated into English.  After a few sentences I forewent my "I'm going to get through this without crying" mindset and looked up at him, not even needing a translation because the message of what he was saying was clear. I knew I was loved in that moment. I knew I was loved by my own family, who had allowed me to leave them even after Benjamin's surgery for this opportunity which my heart needed. I knew I was loved by God, who placed me in a family that supports who I am, who was so gracious to allow me ten days with a family in Argentina that He knew would have my heart even before I was born. I felt the love of Reynaldo and Viviana as he told me that they loved me and would miss me.

The love of that moment was so overwhelming that I just put my head against his chest and cried. And as I cried, Renzo put his arm around me.

I'll stop the day there. More sweet moments happened, more hugs were shared. We drove away on a bus. A girl  on our team told me how my relationship with my host family encouraged a lot of people. That comment surprised me, and blessed me. I continued to thank God for His mercies in allowing me to have two precious families. We boarded an airplane, I slept fitfully...journaled almost constantly, talked with the Argentine sitting next to me. And then we were in the United States, and then...home. I was reunited with my family.

Just as the first moment stepping off the bus in Argentina was memorable and precious to me, hugging my mom again was so special to me. I talked nonstop for the next several hours, pouring out my soul to my mother, the one who I knew would listen to the most minute of details such as the taste of Dulce de Leche on toast, cry with me, and delight with me over how my dear host siblings have changed and grown. She is a blessing.

I don't know why God would see fit to bless me with ten days in Argentina. Why did He place these two families in my life, ten people who I love so deeply and who love me just as much? How is it that love reaches over countries, languages, and years?

Sometimes I focus on the ugliness of this world. But tonight, thinking back to that day, I see clearly the beauty that God has blessed us with. Beauty that all comes out of one thing: love.

Thanks for letting me share all those adjectives that I had to cut out of my thank you newsletter to keep it down to one page...thank goodness for blogs with no word-limits!

Your Blogger,

Friday, July 5, 2013

The little things

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted,but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." ~2 Corinthians 4:7-9 

I love this passage. Lately I've been struggling with, as Roger Arnett would say, the "great burden of grief that rests upon this world".  Coming right out of Benjamin's recovery and my mission trip to Argentina, I've had this 'great burden' on the forefront of my mind and heart. 

This world is a broken, bleeding mess. It's painful to be here, and everyone who resides on planet earth feels that pain at some point or other in their lives. 

I wish that weren't true, but it is. And so what can we do? There's no solution to the problem of pain. No matter how hard we work someone will always be crying, somewhere in the world. 

There is something we can do, though. 

We can love each other through the struggles. We can walk with one another through the hard times. There's nothing better to do, in my opinion. 

This surgery and recovery season there have been many dear ones who have supported us. Sent messages of encouragement during the six months of stress and fear prior to Benjamin's surgery...ate our dozens of cookies that spelled out 'joy' in our effort to keep our joy...brought meals...and called. Called. I have to say, out of everything people did this season, the one that made the biggest impact to me was the calls. Those friends who called during Benjamin's recovery and hospitalization were such gifts. One friend in particular called the day he came home from the hospital. This is one of the hardest days for me, personally, because although I'm over the moon thrilled that we are all together again, it's usually one of the most painful days for Benjamin/Mason. And that's hard. Really hard. 

So my friend called. And she got it. She knows what surgeries and recoveries are like, and so we were able to just talk about things I wouldn't be able to talk to any other friend about, and we laughed. And I walked in from that call feeling so refreshed. After just a phone call. It was a blessing. So thank you to those friends who called. 
(So if ever you have a friend who has surgery, or whose sibling has surgery, remember to reach out and make a phone call! )

But I'm kind of getting off track here...I was thinking about how we don't always support one another when we should. I wanted to tell that story to show you an example of someone trying to make the burden (going back to the great burden of grief here! ;)) lighter to carry. I think it is truly a beautiful thing when we consider the trials others could be going through, and so decide to lift them up instead of tearing them down. I think that is part of what makes the difference between us being perplexed, but not in despair... persecuted but not abandoned...struck down but not destroyed. 

It takes effort to do that, though. You have to make an effort to be conscientious to the people around you. I went on my mission trip to Argentina pretty raw, I know. Most of the trip was wonderful and refreshing, truly it was. But there were moments that were tough. I knew going into it that leaving the country with a group of high schoolers right after Benjamin's surgery might make for some difficult moments because, well, I'm  really really really sensitive after surgeries. And so some sarcastic quips had me in tears. Seriously. Jokes, teasing remarks that were funny to everyone else, made me cry. I know no one meant to be malicious. They couldn't have known that I was emotionally exhausted from six months of worry. But it did hurt. I'm sure that I, too, have been guilty of not paying attention to the emotions of others before. I think we all need to start making a big effort to do so. It would change the world. 

What else makes a difference, gives us hope to keep going despite the trials? 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18

That's what gives us hope. What we see here--the pain, tears, sadness--this is temporary. So let's not lose heart. And let's try to encourage others to not lose heart, as well. 

Your Blogger,