Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hug and Release

Dearest Readers,

I only have a couple of more days before school, theater, and various other obligations will consume my time, so I'm taking advantage of it by giving you a much needed update. :)

Happy 2015! This new year holds much change for my family and I. I'm not always a big fan of change, even if I know it's going to be a good thing. I hold on to my people, these moments, tightly, and with both hands. Sometimes it's a good thing--like when I left Argentina, I knew I had held on to every second so tightly that I couldn't have possibly missed a moment. It gave me satisfaction knowing I had cherished every.single.second to its fullest.

Sometimes, though, I take it too far. When I was little, I used to hug for so long my mom had to say, "Hug and release!" as a verbal reminder for me not to tackle my victim friend. Haha. I'm still like that in so many ways. God gives me something good, and I get so excited about it that I clench it up so tightly  it doesn't have any chance of escaping my grasp. Until He decides its time for that friend to move, or that chapter to end, or time for me to go to college. Somehow He wrenches what I've been holding so tightly and takes it back.

I've been excited about beginning the room mate search. I shortened my biography down to the required characters and emailed a couple of girls all in one day. I had a lovely correspondence with one, and despite finding out that she will most likely be rooming with a friend, got excited about meeting her when I got to campus. I was excited and kept checking my email.

My enthusiasm sort of fizzled out after I told my best friend I was going to Mississippi for college. It was like all of a sudden I was reminded of the bitter in the bittersweet of 2015 and all of its change. Until Monday, I hadn't checked my email in weeks.

I decided to log in on Monday, though, and was surprised to find a couple of  emails from girls looking for room mates. One even read my blog (if you're out there, hi, Lauren! :)), which totally touched my heart.


It's all a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth. It's being so excited for the future one moment, and so very sad at the end of this chapter the next. It's desperately needing friendships to be unchanged, but knowing that I can't make things stay exactly the same no matter how tight my grasp is. It's my heart swelling with the excitement of a new adventure and moving to my parents' home that I've always loved. It's wondering how sweet a long distance friendship might be and how cherished the reunions would become? It's figuring out where it's acceptable to go without makeup on in MS, because in AZ it's pretty much a free for all and my sweatpants really enjoy their freedom. :)

I'm so thankful for 2014. And 2013. And all of the past nine years that I have spent in Arizona, with its beautiful sunsets and so many loved ones. I'm so thankful for 2015. I know I will cram it with many, many memories in this state. I also know it will begin to fill up with new adventures and memories from Mississippi, and they'll be just as beautiful and precious. My prayer for this year is that I stop clutching each moment for dear life, and am able to cherish each moment with open hands that accept the fact that I am not in control. I know this year I'm going to have a gentle voice in my head telling me to "release". I never liked hearing that as a child, and I'm not going to like it now. But you know what? That release just means there's another hug coming later.

His plans are so much greater than any we could imagine. I know that's said a lot in church, and so you might have read that without even a thought, but take a moment to imagine that it's true. I know it might not seem like it in your present circumstances, but His plans include so many unseen things and a beautiful eternity that we can't even contemplate. He is good.

What is your prayer for this new year? I'm praying for you to have many cherished moments and peace in the knowledge that God is always in control.

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

Yours always,
Claire

Friday, December 19, 2014

Please don't forget them.

Dearest Readers,
Happy almost Christmas! I hope your upcoming celebration is filled with so much joy.

Today I'm here to talk about something hard. I'm here to talk about Russia. This country has many, many children in need. It has one of the worst orphanage systems in the world, and very few Russians are willing to adopt. It's estimated that 300,000 children languish in about 3,000 institutions across Russia. (LA Times)

This month is the two year anniversary of the Russian ban on adoptions, the Dima Yakovlev Law. This horrible, life altering bill was passed on December 28th 2012. It banned Americans from adopting from Russia, including families who had met and loved on their children. I remember being horrified into silence as I read article after article on this ban late that night. It seemed like an awful nightmare, and I couldn't believe it was true.  I read until the tears pouring out of my eyes prevented me from reading any more.


More than three hundred Russian orphans had American families working to bring them home. Those children remain in Russia today. Their families are heartbroken. The beautiful little angel you see pictured below is Natasha. Today she celebrated her ninth birthday in an orphanage, despite having a family that is desperate to see her in their arms. Her family had already met her when the ban was put into place.
This beautiful girl met her would-be adoptive family when she was six. She has spent an extra *unnecessary* two and a half years in an orphanage, and will most likely spend the rest of her life in state care if changes are not made. Children with disabilities are rarely adopted in Russia. Many are sent to adult institutions where malnutrition and neglect are the leading causes of death. 

In these past two years, these 300 plus parents have screamed for their children. Their cries alone aren't enough to get their children home, though. You can help them. Go "like" the Facebook page Parents United for Russian Orphans.  Their goal is to bring about change for the better in Russia, and to get these remaining children who had families home to them. If this isn't possible, their prayer is for Natasha and children in similar situations to find loving families in Russia. You can join them with your prayers, and write an encouraging note on their Facebook page. Please also share the group, share this blog post, share Natasha's picture...whatever you can to keep these children on the forefront of your prayer list! Once you've "liked" the page, you will find many more opportunities will be posted with ideas to help. 

I have been blessed with the opportunity to watch (thanks to the internet) not one, but TWO precious little ones with special needs find families in Russia. Russia is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture and people. The thought of these children getting to stay in their homeland, growing up with their language and people is a lovely one. Many Russians flooded the streets of Moscow in January 2013 in defiance of this bill. I get goosebumps envisioning so many people standing up for Natasha, for all of these children. Sadly, though, there are just too many orphans and not enough people able/willing to adopt. 


Please never forget the children who are locked away. Just because you don't see them everyday, don't forget their suffering. Please pray for them. Pray for the Russians who are risking everything by fighting for these children's rights. Please pray for the families in the States who are still heartbroken, especially Natasha's mama. Please never stop praying for Russia.

Your Blogger,
 Claire




Sunday, November 23, 2014

One child and One family: How YOU can change their lives this Christmas!

Dear Readers,

I love this time of year. Every day just seems so much better when the air is cold and Christmas is right around the corner.

I don't so much love the panicky "Oh my goodness it's almost Christmas and I still have so much to do" feeling that has been creeping in lately. I mean, guys, I don't even have a clue what I'm getting anyone for Christmas! I had this great plan in October to cross-stitch all of my dear ones little ornaments...well, here we are at Thanksgiving, and I haven't finished on. Oye vey!

Not to mention, I signed up to be an angel tree warrior with Reece's Rainbow this year, and haven't even put sweet little guy's button up on my blog. Or started fundraising. Yep. I get the worst Angel Tree Warrior Ever Award.

But, I'm here now, and I'm here to introduce you to a little boy in Asia and to let you know how YOU can make a difference in his life.

Meet Titas. I'm pretty certain he's already stolen your heart, too, right? I wasn't going to be an AT Warrior (because, as we've already ascertained, I'm the worst), but no one picked sweet little Titas. And as soon as I saw his picture, I couldn't refuse. His sweet little smirk reminds me of a little boy I know and love in AZ. 

Titas will be six years old in January. He is a leader in his orphanage, and all of his caregivers and peers love him. He's kind and gentle, and understands much more than he can say. He goes to a special class and helps with the younger children in the class. So, basically, he's an angel child. But wait--there's more! His Reece's Rainbow description ends with, 

"He loves to play new games and sometimes he is naughty!"

Aha! So he isn't an angel all the time, just most of the time. 
That line makes me laugh out loud. His little smirk made me think he had a mischievous streak! 

That line means more than that, though. It means he has personality! Sometimes institutionalized children are constantly trying to please in order to gain affection. That sentence shows that he isn't so eager to please he's lost all sense of his own stubborn will. It's a very good thing! Besides, aren't mischievous little boys the best kind?! 

So, now you love Titas. Do you want to know how you can help him? As his AT Warrior, it's my responsibility to advocate for him until the New Year, and to fundraise for him in any way I come up with. I've put together a few Christmas goodies you can order to raise money for Titas! The money you give will be added to his grant on Reece's Rainbow. This money will be saved just for his family. When a family begins the process of adopting him, they will be able to use that money to bring him home. 

It's my firm belief that we are all called to serve the orphans. It really is true, though, that you don't have to adopt to make a difference. You also don't need to have a lot of money. 

The items I've made aren't expensive at all--but I promise you every small amount added to his grant makes it easier for a family to bring him home! You really will be making a difference....and you'll get a Christmas memento, too! 
Christmas gift card holders! Right one still available; five dollars.


Next up are the Christmas ornaments! These are also five dollars each, hand stitched, and firmly attached and glued to a small embroidery hoop. I can add a bow to the top for hanging in whatever color you would like! I am able to make multiple ornaments for all of the pictures you see. *However*, if you would like the music note one, the flower will have to be a different color/pattern. :) If you would like any of the designs in a different color or fabric just ask! 



DISCOUNT: THIS ONE IS THREE DOLLARS!



This one's my favorite :)

A package of five Santa Claus gift labels for five dollars! 

A set of three crocheted Christmas lights is twelve dollars! :)
Option number one for ordering these items: please go to this page and donate the amount you owe to Titas's grant. Email me a picture of your receipt (or just forward it to me) at clairesignshere at yahoo dot com. :)

Option number two: I love Angel Tree and the gift that it will be to the families adopting these sweet children. However, I can't ignore the fact that there are many families working hard to bring their children home right now. The Vargas family is one of these. They are working so hard to bring home three beautiful children with special needs. You might remember Sadie from this blog post? This is her family.  I want to give you the option to bless them this Christmas, as well. If your heart is so inclined, I will be selling packages of five gift tags (different from the Santa Claus ones) for five dollars per package to benefit this family. Follow the same process you would for buying an item that helps Titas, only donate to this page.

Thank you SO MUCH for making a difference in Titas's life and in the lives of the newest Vargas children this Christmas! You are changing the world for them. Be praying for Titas, Alonzo, Sophia, and Sadie as they spend their days in the orphanage, and please pray for their families--for Titas's family to realize he is theirs, and for the Vargas family as they work to bring their children home! 

Much love to you, dear Readers, and I hope your Thanksgiving is full of love and laughter! 

Your Blogger who is so thankful for you,
Claire




This set of three is twelve dollars.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The last treasure of the weekend.

Dear Readers,

Thank you for sticking with me this weekend as I share three very special kiddos with you all! Each of these children needs to have a sponsor by the end of October, so please share these posts with everyone you know and pray for God to provide sponsors for these three! 



Click here for the blog post about Luis!

Click here for the post about Urmila!
If you're new here, please click over to my first post in this series about Urmila. Today you get to meet the newest, and last, little love. Her name is Elyse, and she lives in Togo. This beautiful young lady is nine and lives with her mother and father. Her household chores include cleaning and running errands. Her father sometimes works and her mother is sometimes employed as a farmer. There are seven children in the family.

Typical houses in Elyse's region are made of cement floors, brick walls and tin roofs. The regional diet consists of maize, beans, and cassava. A common health problem is malaria. Most adults work on plantations or as subsistence farmers and earn the equivalent of $10 per month. Let me just stop there for a moment. Ten dollars a month. In the United States, the average person probably spends more than $10 on a daily basis. It's crazy to think that's all they make a month. 

Your sponsorship will provide Elyse with Bible teaching, drama and prayer groups, retreats, choir, hygiene and nutrition education, physical exercises, health screenings, nutritious food, games, field trips, community service opportunities, tutoring and educational materials. 

All of these opportunities are just typical activities every other child loves to do, so you might overlook them. They mean so much to the children involved, though!  Our sponsored child, Moris, loves to participate in the drama group at his center. After one of his plays, all of the kids hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him out while cheering. These programs are wonderful, safe places for these kids to get love. She will also be provided with the opportunity to pour that love back out in community service projects! 

Not only will your sponsorship provide the support for Elyse to benefit from all of these programs, you will have the opportunity to get to know her and to be a positive influence in her life. I promise you this is an opportunity you won't want to miss.

I will have these children until the end of October, and if they don't have a sponsor by then, their information gets sent back to Compassion. I believe they have sponsors out there, though, and am praying this blog post will guide someone to them! They are actually my second group of children this month. Amazingly, God provided a sponsor for my first three within two days of getting their packets in the mail. Would you like to sponsor any of these three children?

To find out more about Compassion International, please visit: http://www.compassion.com/about/about-us.htm

Thank you for listening. Your Blogger,
 Claire

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Treasure numero dos!

Dear Readers,

True to my word, I have another present for you today! Sweet Urmila has not yet found a sponsor, though, so if you are a new visitor (thank you so very much for stopping by!!) you will definitely want to start here.
Sweet Urmila needs a sponsor! Leave a comment if you would like to sponsor her!



 
Today, however, I would like to introduce you to treasure numero dos:
Luis!
This handsome little guy is from El Salvador and is ten years old! Luis lives with his grandparents and cleans the home and runs errands. His grandfather is sometimes employed as a farmer and his grandmother works as a laborer. He loves to play soccer, play with cars, and run. He attends church activities and Bible class regularly and in primary school his performance is above average. A sponsorship  of $38 will allow him to continue that education, and to go on and change the world.
 
Luis lives in the mountain community of Jerusalem, (remember, he lives in El Salvador...) home to approx. 3,600 residents. Typical houses are corrugated iron and cement floors. The regional diet consists of maize, beans, rice, and potatoes. Common health problems in his area include fevers, malaria, and respiratory and intestinal infections. Most adults in Jerusalem are unemployed but some work as laborers and earn the equivalent of $90 a month. This community has water and electricity but needs employment opportunities and vocational training centers.
 
Your sponsorship will open up the world to Luis! I love the name of his Child Development center--Amor y Fe. In Spanish that means Love and Faith. Would you love Luis and show him that you have faith in him? With your support Amor y Fe will be able to provide Luis with Bible teaching, medical checkups, health and hygiene education, recreational activities, leadership development, preschool classes, literacy and computer training as well as academic support. The staff will also provide meetings for his grandparents.
 
 
If you have never heard of Compassion International's sponsorship program, please click here. they are an amazing, God-honoring organization that has done so much for so many children.
 
Finally, I urge you to watch this video. It shows one child's reaction to finding out she has a sponsor. Please know that you are truly changing this child's life forever with your love and support.
 
Please comment for more information on Luis or Urmila! One more child will be coming tomorrow!
Your Blogger,
Claire

Friday, October 17, 2014

A treasure for you to love!

Dearest Readers,

If any of you are still out there (so sorry for my long hiatus!!)....today is an exciting day! I got a very special package in the mail today and it was for YOU!

So you can just sit back and relax while I tear the tape off and open up this little goodie box with all of its precious contents. You could be the one to walk away with a treasure! We'll just have to wait and see. :) I will be opening one treasure every day of this weekend, beginning with tonight's. I pray my hands will be empty by Monday! Here we go...

All right, I got the tape off and didn't even need the car keys! Now for the fun part...thank goodness there are no foam peanuts...

Treasure numero uno:


Meet Urmila! This beautiful brown-eyed girl lives in India! Sweet baby girl turned five years old TODAY!!!! I know the perfect birthday present for this precious girl. Can you guess what it is??

Sponsorship* (if you have never heard of Compassion International's Sponsorship program, jump down to the bottom where I will explain the details!). Two other children are also available for sponsorship here and here.


Urmila has been waiting for a sponsor for seven months and is in desperate need of one. She lives on the plains of Longkharang, home to approximately 59,000 residents. Her area has a high risk for child rights violations, making it even more imperative for her to quickly get a sponsor. Urmila helps out around the house by running errands. She loves to play with dolls and play hide-and-seek! What a cute little girly-girl. She attends church activities and preschool regularly.

Typical houses in her village consist of cement floors, wood walls, and tin roofs. Urmila lives with her father, who is sometimes employed as a laborer, her mother, who maintains the home, and one sibling. Most adults in her community earn the equivalent of $16 per month. The regional diet consists of maize, bananas,chicken, beef, rice, and potatoes. A common health problem in her area is malaria.

Her community needs improved sanitation, income-generating programs, and drug abuse prevention programs.

YOUR sponsorship would allow the staff of Longkharang Child Development Center to provide Urmila with Bible teaching, health checkups, vaccinations, outdoor games, hygiene education, group activities, picnics, special celebrations, community service opportunities, tutoring, educational materials and skills development programs.

Your monthly payment of $38 will give Urmila a hope and a future she wouldn't otherwise have. And trust me, you will be rewarded in full.

My favorite part of sponsorship is the correspondence. You will be given the opportunity to write letters to Urmila, and these letters will truly change her life. You can watch her grow up through her letters, and watch her scribbles turn into recognizable drawings to hand-written prayers for you. Please believe me when I tell you the gift of correspondence is one you won't want to miss out on.


My family and I have sponsored a precious boy in Uganda since 2009. Moris loves with his whole heart, and although we have never met in person, my family feels he is absolutely a part of ours. I can't put into words the blessing to us his relationship has been. Y'all, he prays for us daily. With his whole family. They sit in their little hut in Uganda and pray for us every.single.day. Wow. Talk about humbling.

Instead of fumbling over myself trying to find eloquent enough words to express how much I love this boy, let me just share a piece of his latest letter with you. I know he won't mind if it helps Urmila find a family.
Moris and his beautiful mother with a cow and cowbell he bought
with money from a family gift. You can send up to three family
gifts a year to your sponsored child!


"...He said that he is wearing a smiling face and tears of joy are always coming out of him and his mother, as shown in the photo. Moris also said that he is so proud of you and he said that he will never forget to put you in his prayers for the wonderful support you are giving him always and he said that may the Lord our God continue to protect you and award you abundantly. He said that due to your support he has been able to attend school up to this moment and his performance is good and  he continues to ask you to pray for his good performance on his exams which will come soon...he said that he is praying very hard that God one day will bring you together and you can see him face to face...."

He is proud of me. This precious little boy. Oh, how I love him. He scribes his letters to a translator (hence the "he says"...), but his sweet heart and love for Jesus just shines through! His letters bless me immensely. As you can see, sponsorship is not a one-way street. He pours just as much into us as we pour into him. Yes, I, too, am praying very hard that one day God will bring us together!!

Sponsorship is amazing. It's a little bit of what Heaven will be like. I'm praying God will guide you as to whether Urmila or one of the other children I feature on my blog this weekend will be yours to love and support! Please take a chance to show Jesus to one of these little children. I promise it will be well worth your while.

Please leave a comment with your email address if you would like more information! Also, specify if you would like me to leave your comment "unpublished" so I'm the only one with your email address!

Mucho amor, dear Readers! Your Blogger,
Claire

*Compassion International is a Christian organization that provides children across the globe with sponsors. These sponsors pay $38 a month for their child to receive healthcare, a weekly meal, Bible teaching, training, and a safe place to come every week with mentors and friends at their Compassion-sponsored child development center. Many of these children don't have any adults in their lives to look up to, and this center provides an opportunity for that.
For more information, click here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

She waits



Dear Readers,
This beautiful girl is Sadie. She has waited eight years for a family, and just recently watched her best friend go home with her family. Can you imagine that? She longs for a family of her own. Her best friend's family spent a lot of time with her while they visited their daughter, and said the following about sweet Sadie:


"URGENT!! Sadie's file is available and she needs a family to see her and know she is theirs. 

The night before we met our daughter the nannies said the girls laid in their cribs talking. Our daughter asked Sadie, "What if they don't like me?" and Sadie assured her, "Of course they will love you!" And our daughter said, "Then we need cake to celebrate"! 

The night before our last visit the nannies said Sadie  told our daughter she would miss her so much. Our daughter promised Sadie that night that we would find her a family. There they laid in their little cribs and exchanged a promise so profound. I promise not to forget her, a promise to bring her hope and love, a promise that a family will be found and come and call her their daughter! 

They (Sadie and the author's daughter) are the only two verbal children in their room. They have been best friends since they first were able to speak, the nannies told us. I cannot imagine her being left behind. If you could hear her giggle you would agree there is nothing in this world sweeter. 

Our translator said Sadie is incredibly smart! Our translator actually cried the day we left and said she is precious and needs a family to come and asked that we would help to find a family. 

Sadie insists on doing anything she can do for herself... she is very determined. She has the nannies (and she had us) laughing so much. And she has a mighty throw when playing catch with the ball.... she could throw it further than our daughter. 

Sadie had a family that couldn't continue and she already met them and knew what love feels like. Before she didn't know, but now she does and she wants it again so badly!! When we were saying goodbye, our daughter just smiled but Sadie's eyes were wide open and her little chest started to show she was breathing so heavy. She didn't want love to leave again. We spent every moment with her the same as our daughter and would love to answer any questions anyone has. Would you help us keep our daughter's promise, would you help her not be left behind?? If you are not Sadie's family can you please share this post everyday until we find them??!!"


You can tell a lot about someone by the way they handle a difficult situation. Sadie has handled every difficult situation thrown at her with grace and wisdom. She put her own hurt at being left behind and desire for a family behind her in order to encourage and love her dear friend. What a precious spirit this young lady has. 

If you would like more information about this beautiful girl, you can contact Shelley at 
shele337@gmail.com.

Your Blogger,
Claire



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Do you need anything?"

Dear Readers,

Have you ever been asked that question? Have you ever been the asker?
I know I have seen both ends of that question before, mostly during "surgery summers". Both positions are equally awkward.

The one being asked the question often has no clue as to how to answer. Do you say, "No, thanks" even though you're drowning in laundry and desperate for companionship? Do you agree to let them help, proceeding to hand over your to-do list that's a mile long?

The Asker, on the other hand, probably fumbled around and came up with this question in the midst of a "There's nothing I can do to make this better" moment. This question comes from a sincere heart--one that wants to help, but just isn't sure how.

So there you are, two friends trying to discern what the other wants to hear. Two friends and a very loud silence as you try to figure out what comes next.

I would like to pause this little scene and speak to both the asker and the one on the receiving end.

To the Asker, I would say this:
Throw that question away and forget it was ever part of your vocabulary. I'm entirely serious. I understand where you're coming from, I do. After all, you can't know whether your friend really wants you to come over when she doesn't feel well or has a sick child to care for. And if you have never experienced what your friend is going through, you really don't know what they need.

Despite your great intentions, this is not the question to use. If your friend has just had some major life deal,  they are going to need something. Assuming your friend needs something is the first step.

Questions to use instead: "How can I help?"
                                         "What can I do?"
Or, leaving less room for refusal: "I'm free tomorrow. Can I come over and bring lunch? Can I help with laundry? Can I do your dishes?" etc.,etc.,etc.

Isn't it easy to see how these questions are different? "Do you need anything?" is detached, a quick Facebook comment, nothing binding you to do anything--you leave it entirely in your friend's court. The words 'what' and 'how' seem to attach a commitment to the question. I like the last one best, because although surprise visits aren't a good idea in these situations, that has the same feel as a surprise visit--you made the decision to do it all on your own, your friend didn't have to ask you to do anything.

Next I would like to speak to the receiver of the question:
Although I hope your friend has already forgotten that question entirely, this is what I would like to tell you for facing that question again:

Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Your friend did just offer their help, and no matter how the question was worded, I believe they are concerned for you. So let them help. Don't feel embarrassed to admit that you really just need a nap and would appreciate their coming over to watch the kids, or to say you would love some companionship but don't feel like talking.

Honestly, Readers, the most important thing I wish to impart to you here is not even about those questions. Really, it's about loving one another with a love that knows no limits. My Mom and I are reading Bob Goff's book Love Does. The book is comprised of story after story of big, wide open love. Love that thinks of the other person first--such as a newlywed leaving his new bride and home to help a lost teenager get back on track. (That has been my favorite story of the book so far :))

That story left me wondering whether I would do the same thing. It's so easy to instead give out the easy kind of love, the love that asks if you need anything instead of just doing. Let's transform our love into a kind of love that does. A kind of love that jumps in and gives everything away in an effort to love a little bit like the way God loves us.

How has someone loved you in a way that helped get you through a difficult time?

Your Blogger,
 Claire






Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The thoughts in my head

Dearest Readers,

Let me say I am so sorry for my hiatus! I have wanted to blog several times this month, but every time I sat down at the computer my fingers wanted to talk about what's on my mind. And what's on my mind has been quite boring.

Today, however, I bit the bullet and decided to see what words I could come up with and cross my fingers that it satisfies you, patient readers. So here goes.

What's on my mind??

The fact that this is my last year of high school. Although Pre-Calculus and SAT practice have made me long to just be accepted to a college already, the reality is that I am not even close to being ready for this. And, quite frankly, I find it ridiculous that society asks 18 year olds to make such a huge decision. Maybe I need to go into law or something and change it to 21 years old. That seems much better, don't you think?

I know, however, that I will never feel ready for this next step--even if I changed the age of incoming freshmen to 30.

But this is all very boring reading because practically every high school senior has felt the same exact way. So I'll leave that there and move on to one of my favorite subjects.

I hope you're not tired of hearing about Argentina, because I'm pretty sure I will never run out of things to say about it.

It's been a year since I was there. That seems so strange to me. I can still feel the trembling excitement and disbelief I felt as that plane touched down in Buenos Aires. It was so surreal to be back.
The bus outside La Puerta Abierta
I didn't know when I would be back last year, so I took lots of pictures like that one--scenery that I want to remember for always. That knowledge led me to embrace every single moment, unwilling to go to bed until I literally fell into it in exhaustion. This summer, the summer that's missing that view, I'm thankful for all of those minutes I had. 

Another shot of the church--hey, I know those people! :)

I'm so glad I took these pictures. So many sweet memories were made inside those buildings. 

Last Saturday my whole family gathered to watch Argentina play in the World Cup. We easily got swept away in the fervent passion of the game, shouting and cheering and celebrating when Argentina won. We swapped stories of our time there during the commercial breaks. I put on Mason's Messi jersey when it looked like Argentina was going to lose and needed a little more good luck. :) 

The school connected to the church

After the game we got on Facebook to find dozens of posts from Argentines we know and love--literally cheering online. We joined in, and as I sat there, surrounded by my family loving this country from afar, and connected to loved ones over there by social media, I was just amazed. Three years ago we didn't even know anything about Argentina. And yet here we are today, with so many dear ones and wonderful experiences in that country I love so much. 

That gives me hope for this whole college thing. I know that my plans and desires are not the same as God's. I'm stubborn and so I will most likely kick and scream all the way to wherever He wants me to go next year--but I know I have to trust Him. When we went to Argentina the first time I thought I knew what I wanted, too. I wanted to stay in the same exact house as my mom and brothers, and when I found out that wasn't happening I kicked and screamed and was a stubborn mule. 

But then. You all know how much I love the family that hosted me. I love them so much I went back and stayed with them another year. I love them so much I know I will be back again. 

God's plans are good. They're more than that--they're infinitely better than anything we could possibly dream up.

So I look at my pictures from Argentina, and I remind myself that He knows what He's doing. I don't have to be a stubborn mule this time, because I know I will be fine once I get there. I'll just keep reminding myself of that. 

In the meantime, I have a fútbol game to watch. :) Vamos Argentina!!!! 

Hugs to you, dear Readers! Thanks for sticking with me through the end. I hope your summer is going well, and I hope you are cheering for Argentina in the World Cup! ;) I promise not to desert you for so long again. 

Your blogger,
 Claire








Sunday, May 11, 2014

The world's beauty as seen from backstage



“Sometimes people are beautiful.

Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.” 
~Markus Zusak, The Messenger

Dear Readers,

In a world children are left alone in orphanages and countries try to kill one another, it's hard to always believe that quote is true. I actually stumbled across it the other night while searching for a quote from my favorite book, The Book Thief. The quote I was looking for is from Liesel Meminger, a young girl who grows up in Nazi Germany...and hides a Jew. She says (about helping Max); "We were just being people. That's what people do." 

Both quotes are so simple and beautiful to me. Sometimes I get bogged down with the ugliness of the world, and forget how simply beautiful it can all be.

Yes, we are all sinful and selfish and human, but our humanity isn't always all bad. Sometimes it is quite beautiful.


Like when I come into Cate's play after the SAT and all of those kids and their mamas ask how it went.

Like when friends offer kind words of encouragement after a particularly rough tech week. 

Like when everyone poses for this picture
that I wanted for some reason :) 
When students from the play my mom directed (and Benjamin, Mason, and I stage managed) come see our performance and hug us with a word of congratulations. 


When a sweet friend comes over the night before opening night to go through my script line by line until I'm able to play the Jester with confidence. 



I know all of these are relatively simple acts of love. But that's what makes them so precious. They signify people being people; doing what we were created to do. Love and encourage. 
I hope someone shows you some of the world's beauty this week, dear ones. And I hope you are able to, in turn, "do what people do" for someone else. Even the smallest gesture can have so much impact. Today we were walking around a restaurant where we went for Mother's Day, and were looking for a ramp. A man noticed and pointed us in the right direction. My dad and I were honestly surprised that he would, a.) take notice of the ramp in the first place, and b.) see our trouble and help out. He was just doing what people do; and yet it was a meaningful gesture to us. No act of kindness goes unnoticed. (Despite what Elphaba says. :) I told you this was as seen from backstage, didn't I?)
After this week of simply sweet acts of love, my heart feels overwhelmed. I'm so very thankful for these dear ones, and this community I'm blessed to be a part of. 

Your Blogger,
 Claire



















Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thank you, Therapists.


Dear Readers,

Not only is April the month of our birthday, it is also Occupational Therapy month! Of course I couldn’t let this event go unnoticed.

As the triplet sister to brothers with Cerebral Palsy, therapists have always been a part of my life. I have some amazing memories of therapists who made a big impact on little Claire as I struggled to understand my brothers’ disability and why I did not have it. My mom has amazing memories of occupational therapists showing her that the term Cerebral Palsy does not define her sons, and holding her hand through the months and years following their diagnosis.

Our first experience with therapy--a study on PT and premature infants!


This month gives me an opportunity to thank those women (both Occupational and Physical therapists) who have not just helped my brothers reach milestones, but have helped our family walk this unique journey.

Our first experience with Occupational Therapy was when we were two years old. When my mom talks about that OT, Susan, she says she helped Mom make it through those first couple of years. The below pictures were taken from my Mom’s scrapbook. 
"Mrs.Susan was Mommy's dearest friend in Chicago--even though we only
saw her at Occupational Therapy! She always talked Mommy through every stage
and she helped us make huge progress!" 



A good Occupational Therapist is one who:
       1.)  Encourages the little sibling to participate, as well. (even allows her to steal beads and stow them away in her diaper occasionally…or every week.)


      2.)  Values the Mom’s input and reassures her that she is the one who knows her children the best. For a first-time mom living in a world of specialists, Mom needed that assurance that she was the most important figure in her children’s’ world. And the most informed.
Baby Benjamin working hard in OT

      
      We moved away, leaving Mom’s dear friend and the boys’ therapist behind. Little Claire was not impressed with the new therapists. They didn’t allow me to join in on Benjamin and Mason’s special “play” time. How was I to understand that they were working? I only knew that they got special time with fun, new toys and grown ups, and was heartbroken when I was repeatedly told “no”.
At our "goodbye" party with their first OT. Notice there are THREE
napkins? Little Claire got a cupcake, too :) 



 To any therapists out there: remember you aren’t just working with your patient; you are working within a family unit. As therapists, you have a platform to set the tone for how the sibling views this disability. Will they resent the special treatment their sib gets, or cherish time spent helping their sib achieve goals? That’s something to keep in mind the next time a whiny typical sibling sits in the hallway during your therapy session.

Eventually I grew to understand what Benjamin and Mason were doing in therapy and realized why I couldn’t take part in it. We moved yet again, and this time the move came with a new type of therapy entirely.

Hippotherapy.  I had fallen in love with horses when we did a hippotherapy summer program. The summer program was amazing, and I was a full participant. When Benjamin and Mason began doing hippotherapy every week, my mom arranged for me to ride one of the boys’ horses for a few minutes after their session was over. I was in heaven.

Tears well up as I write, this memory is still so close to my heart. Right around Christmas, the program director told me he had a special surprise for me. He was going to let me ride my very own horse for a whole therapy session.

Wow. Talk about including the sibling. He saw what joy riding the horses gave me, and despite the fact that I didn’t have special needs and wasn’t there for hippotherapy, blessed me with the gift of getting to ride one of his horses. That was a moment I will always remember, and always be thankful for.

    3.) A good therapist sees the potential in everyone, and helps them make their dreams come true.

This story leads me to present day. These years around therapists left a big impact on me. I have seen the life changing work therapists do for their patients and families, and because of that aspire to be an Occupational Therapist myself. I can only pray I will be able to leave a lasting impact on these precious kids and their families like these therapists have made on us.

Probably the most important attribute of a good therapist:
        
      4.) They don’t care that we are sometimes in sweats (and occasionally PJs) when they come to our house. Hehe

Not too long ago, Mason’s physical therapist was at our house. I had been feeling discouraged, and Mason voiced my concerns to his therapist. She looked at me and said,

“Claire, Occupational Therapy changes lives. You are going to change lives.”

Another moment I’ll never forget. Another therapist making a life changing impact on me.

What makes therapists special? The opportunity they have to make a difference every single moment of every single day. It might be a hug to a frightened mother, the offer to the sister to join in, the encouragement that you are able, whatever your abilities.

To all of you therapists out there, thank you. You really are changing the world—one life at a time. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Birthday Week Featured Child: Mirabel

Dearest Readers,

It is now, officially, our birthday week. Woohoo!

 Our birthday is Friday, I have my theater class's show Saturday, and then it's Easter! I will be blogging about the festivities once they are all said and done. But today it is time for you all to meet....


Mirabel.
Mirabel means "wondrous", or of wondrous beauty. Definitely
an appropriate name for this beautiful girl!


About this time last year I wrote this post about an orphan in Eastern Europe who, like me, was about to turn 16.

I knew I wanted to feature another waiting child this week, but who? An April baby? Another 16 year old? Instead, I picked a four year old born in August.

That smile. So precious!
Mirabel is four years old. In her country, this means she will be transferred to a mental institution soon. Soon she will be taken away from the only home she has ever known. She's only four years old. Most four year olds in America don't cross the street without a parent's hand.


 Adoptive families are called forever families for a reason. Mirabel's whole life has been unstable. Nothing has been constant. When she is home with her family, though, the same person will wake her up every morning. She won't cry alone after surgeries. 

A family that met her last year said the following: 
” We saw Mirabel this morning.  She is in the laying down room.  The nannies were carrying them outside.  She can’t hold her head up, support herself, sit, or stand.   It looks like she has no control over her legs at all…flopped to the side when the nannies carried her. She does, however, have good use of her arms.  She kept reaching up to try to touch me.  I gave her a set of the rings to play with.   She was SO happy to have something to play with. She kept smiling at me. I really think that there is a smart, aware little girl in that broken body.”

Will you please pray for Mirabel this week? Pray that she will get to celebrate her birthday with her family one day. 

If you would like more information on adopting Mirabel, please go to her profile at http://reecesrainbow.org/?s=mirabel. 

Your Blogger,
 Claire