Thursday, February 28, 2013

Haiti: Thank You for Sharing the Love!

Because of "you" -- everyone who donated to the "Haiti 2013 Mission Trip" -- our team is now officially able to go and share the love!  I want to express my special thanks to every person who donated so generously!  You have no idea the impact your gifts will make on the lives of those who are waiting, watching, praying, and hoping for some relief!

So many people have asked me why I have chosen to go on this trip again?  Last year's trip was difficult in so many ways.  Most of our team got sick -- some got very sick requiring a stay in the hospital when they returned home.  One person lost his job because he took time off to go on this trip, and he still hasn't found work.  Still others were emotionally overcome with grief.  And, so the question remains, "Why are you going?" 

I'm going because my heart has been moved in a way I can't quite put into words.  I'm going because it is my God-given privilege to go.  I'm going because there is a need.  I'm going because I love children, and I am so honored to be used by God in this way.  I'm going for selfish reasons, too.  Three of my children will be going (Roni, you've just been adopted as "my child"!), and I love being together with them as we serve others.  I'm going because my heart still needs some healing from the pain of brokenness, and one of the best ways I know to heal is to serve others.  I'm going because Jesus has asked us to.  I'm going because of a million different reasons, but most of all I'm going because while I still have life and breath in me I want to serve a purpose and this is one more way for me to do just that.

Again, thank you to each and every person who has been moved in your heart enough to give towards this trip.  Just $5 gives so much help!  Food is scarce.  Jobs are almost nonexistent.  Crops don't grow well due to the extreme heat and drought.  Pure drinking water is hard to find, and so these precious people drink what water they can.  There are disease-carrying mosquitoes, and illnesses, lack of medical help, and lack of transportation.  How can you work for pay when there are no jobs?  How can you grow food when the soil is like a concrete pavement?  How can you stay healthy when you're drinking contaminated water?  How can you stay free from disease when there are no vaccines available? 

You know what?  It all sounds dismal except for one thing:  HOPE!  And, that's where you and I come in.  Every time there is a visit from a group such as our "Haiti Mission Team 2013", there are deposits of hope.  And, when hope is ignited, amazing things happen.  Hope in our Lord, hope in the kindness and love of each other.  Hope in knowing that there are caring people who will give up a small portion of their time and money to cheerfully give to others. 

Thank you so much on behalf of those we will visit in just two short weeks!  They are your children.  Your brothers.  Your sisters.  Your mothers.  Your fathers.  We are a family, and together we will share the love!

If you care to donate more for food and formula, please visit here .  I promise you that every cent will be used towards rice, beans, formula, and any emergency needs that we see while there.  Thank you for giving up a little so that we can share much!

Please pray over the children in these photos.  Ask God to help us teach the children more about God and His amazing love.  Pray that we might stay safe and healthy.  Pray that the children will find parents who want to adopt them into a loving home.  Pray that as we visit those who are sick and dying that we will have hearts of compassion.  Please pray for this Mission Team effort to bless many!  Thank you so much!

Beautiful children.  Beautiful hearts.  So in need of hope!

This is the Cap-Haitian Children's Home (orphanage) where our team will be staying.  The weather will be in the high 90's while we are there, and trust me when I say there will not be any Dairy Queen at the end of the day!  There are not even ice cubes -- luke warm water is the drink of the day.

I can't look at this little child without my entire heart smiling! 

The daily life in Haiti is so difficult.  People walk as much as five miles a day just to get some drinking water.  Can you imagine?  Not a day goes by without me thanking God for the abundance of sparking clean drinking water we have right at our finger tips! 

One of the things that is so difficult for us is to accept "gifts of food" from the very people who have gone for two or three days without a single meal.  This is how much our visits mean.  Hope is that important!  This man cracked open a coconut for us -- more than a day's wage for him -- and joyfully watched as we ate his special gift to us!

These feet walked many miles in the hot, blazing sun to find water and food.  How can we ever complain again after seeing something like this?  This little lady was precious and all she wanted from us was to pray with her.  That was it -- she wanted some HOPE!

And, this is why I return!  Stephanie, thank you for encouraging your mom to make the first trip last year.  And, thank you for encouraging your sister to make her first trip this year.  And, thank you to all who have given so graciously to share the love! 


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guess What I Found in Italy?!?

There are times in our lives when we know that there is impending heartbreak, and we honestly don't know what to do.  Natural to all of us is to try to avoid as much pain as possible (heck, who likes pain?  Nobody that I know!).  For months my behavior had been "odd" -- quietly strange.  Deep in my heart I knew something and I didn't know how to face it or what to do.  My marriage was crumbling.  Wow!  Those are hard words to say!  And, I don't know if I'll ever be able to express those words with ease.  So many people go through this brokenness, yet so few people really talk about it.  Sure you hear the crappy stuff -- "It's all his fault.  It's all her fault."  Blah, blah, blah.  It's never "all" any one person's fault, but it happens.  Sometimes what you think is a good, stable, strong marriage begins to fray at the edges, and it frays, and frays, until it unravels and then suddenly there is a rip and before you know it, things fall apart.

And, so it was for me. Well, there's a bit more to this story, but that can be shared later. 

During that period of quiet "thinking" a few years ago, one of my eleven kids must have known.  We never really talked about "it" -- we didn't have to.  Everything showed on my face, I'm sure.  But, he knew that my dream was to visit my homeland, Italy, so one day I got a call out of the blue, "Hey, mother.  Do you have a passport? (He knew that I didn't.)  Then, get one because I'm buying two tickets to Italy.  We're taking a trip." 

Chris is a spur of the minute kind of guy, so you never know just what is meant by "we're taking a trip", but let's just say that I had very little time to get my passport!  And packing can be summed up in one word: rough.  Chris doesn't plan for anything.  His words, "You can take one piece of luggage.  Make it small.  We're staying for a few weeks, I don't know where in Italy, but just get packed and have your passport ready."  That was it.

How do you even respond to that except, "Oh, my gosh!  This is crazy!  You're taking your old mama to Italy!"  And, a couple of weeks later, we landed in Rome for the adventure of a lifetime.

I'm sure I'll post pictures of Rome and the many awesome places we visited in another blog.  The history is rich; the art is magnificent.  The love is pure.  Italy is my home.

Above all else, what I found in Italy, though, was strength and peace. Okay, and a few headaches.  I had the train ride from hell that I won't talk about right now, but let's just say that I spoke every Italian curse word I could think of when Chris chose "the train" to take us to Sicily.  NEVER AGAIN!!! 

As I begin this new method of blogging -- more of a sharing of my life with you -- the ups, downs, and all-arounds -- I'd like us to talk about the meaty stuff of life, but also balance it with some of the fun stuff, and doggone it -- every day  -- no matter how bad life gets there is always some fun stuff. 

This is mostly my letter of thanks to a son who cared enough to embarrass himself by being a single, young man taking a not-so-young or fun-at-the-moment mom on a trip to one of the most romantic places in the entire world .  Chris, I know there were times when you wanted to strangle me.  Thanks for not tying your shoestring around my neck.  (Another story for another time.)  Thank you for giving me time away to clear my head a bit, to cry alone at night while in my room, and to digest a little of what was happening in my life -- in our lives.  A broken marriage.  Who would have ever thought?  Yet, watching the sea, walking along the streets in Italy brought me a bit of balance and peace, and for that gift I will be eternally thankful.

Now, for the fun part -- I took almost 2,000 pictures while in Italy with my little Sony Cybershot point and shoot camera.  Chris took a whole lot more that look a whole lot better with his mighty, super, duper Nikon.  Both cameras did what they were supposed to do -- they captured the joy! 

Just a sneak peek of our almost three weeks in Italy:

Oh, this was a wonderful day!  I can even remember what the trees and grass smelled like! And, the mountains were more breathtaking than I ever imagined! 

We went to Italy in March -- just when the wildflowers were beginning to paint the fields in gorgeous pink, purple, red and green!  Even the thistles looked beautiful!

There's so much healing in watching the waves roll in and out to sea....a great reminder that eventually our troubles will be cast upon the waters never to return while the blessings that we've given out find their way back to our hearts once again. 

Okay, a rather dorky picture, but I wanted to show everyone that my feet actually touched the soil in Italy.  Here you have it -- the proof! 

An old Italian man walked along the rocks and sea finding "treasures"  -- I'm not sure what it was called, but they were stones that looked like loofah.  He, too, must have seen the emptiness in my heart at the moment because he walked over and handed me his gifts from the sea, and  now each morning when I wake up, I hold one in my hand and remember -- I remember how much we all need each other and how much healing comes from sharing even something as simple as a loofah.  Thank you, my Italian friend.  You gave me joy!

Can you relate?  The threatening storm clouds looming overhead, while the boundless beauty takes the forefront!  Let's never forget to search for the beauty of each day! 

Yes, I found it.  I found some peace, and I'll never forget.  Difficult and painful days, weeks, months, and a few years were ahead of me, but I had this memory -- this time in Italy with a son who cared about his mother -- and I would pull from this memory bank a million times over to pull me through the really hard stuff that came into my life.  I bet I 've looked at this picture hundreds of times reminding myself I would have that joy again -- and I do.  I really, really do!

  Yep, he's the one.  He made it all possible!  Thank you, Chris, for the gift that was far more than "just a trip."  You gave me a big part of my life back, and for that I'll be forever grateful!

And, I proved to myself just how strong I really am.  I survived three weeks of tromping through a country with a son who doesn't believe in plans, agendas, guided tours, or anything that has to do with schedules.  You broke me in good -- I've been an "impromptu, spontaneous" woman ever since!

PS Chris, promised me he'll never take me on another trip again!  Once in a lifetime -- that's all I get!  But, hey, once is all we need to get us back to living again!

PPS  I'd love it if you'd share, too, how you found some peace in your life during a hard time.  Hey, that's how we learn and grow together. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Helping Hands -- Giving Hearts!

It is a thrill for me to introduce my very first guest blogger to you -- Alex Hinton.  Alex holds a special place in my heart, and always will!  She is the youngest of my brood of eleven, and there's just something that will always be special to a mom about her youngest child. 

Alex graduated from Waynesburg University in December 2012, has been blessed with a job, and has been convicted with a desire to begin giving back to those in need.  Please read on in the words of Alex..............

I believe it is our duty as humans to help others:  family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers.  When we see someone struggling with something, no matter how big or small, we need to do what we can to lend a helping hand.  I have been given the opportunity to do this by taking a week long trip to Haiti next month.  Along with six others, including family and church friends, I will provide food and love to many in need.

This is a view overlooking an orphanage where we will be helping to feed children. 

As the date of the trip is quickly approaching, I'm becoming a little bit nervous; this will be my first time traveling outside of the U.S. and my first time in a place that is so unlike what I'm used to.  I will experience firsthand a culture that is vastly different from that of the U.S., from climate to language, cuisine and sanitation. 

This is the main dining hall where our mission team will be fed two meals a day.  I've never eaten most of the food items you see here, and I'm not sure how my stomach will adapt, but I'm willing to give it a try!

Aside from a little bit of fear of the unknown, I'm really excited about this trip.  I will be able to make an impact on many lives during my week's stay in Haiti, and I think that's pretty amazing.  I know a lot of people who have gone on mission trips, both international and domestic, and they always return with a greater appreciation for life.  It's difficult for me to even try to imagine what goiing on this trip will feel like, but I'm sure once I'm there, it will change the way I see the world.

This is "home" to many, many orphaned children -- far, far different from the homes I'm used to seeing! 

What a thrill it will be for me to help package and deliver beans and rice to those who are in need of a meal!

It's hard to imagine that only two miles out of the village there is such beauty!  How can this be while there continues to be starvation, sickness, and dying?  I'm so happy to provide hands that will be helping to bring not just beans and rice, but spiritual food to the people, too!

While in Haiti, our group will be staying at the Cap-Haitien Children's Home, an orphanage run under the direction of Hunter and Jillian Kittrell, a young couple from the U.S.  We will hand out food to families in need, visiting in the homes of families, visiting a prison and a homeless shelter provding some food relief, sanitation packs, and giving some much-needed love!

Word of help travels fast throughout the villages.  People wait in the hot, blazing sun for hours to receive such things as Tylenol, peroxide, and bandages for their grave illnesses!

Here is where your help is needed.  To accomplish our goals, our group must raise a total of $1,300 per person to get to Haiti and to make our time there worthwhile -- providing for the needs of the children and families who have been days without food.  They need someone to care!  Without the help of friends and family, I will not be able to take this trip to serve the people of Haiti.

Will you be my mission partner by donating towards this trip?  I will serve to the very best of my ability.  I will represent Jesus in all that I do.  And, when I come back to the U.S., I will have a changed heart -- an even more willing heart to serve those in need!

A donation of just $10 can be used to purchase a significant amount of rice in Haiti.  Please help me to help the children by donating here .  You can use the drop down and find my name, Alex Hinton. If you don't like to donate online, you can use snail mail by sending your checks made out to Somerset Church of Christ with Alex Hinton -- Haiti" in the memo line to:  Somerset Church of Christ, 310 S. Kimberly Ave., Somerset, PA  15501  c/o Haiti Mission Trip.  All donations are tax deductible. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post!  I appreciate the help of everyone offering their support!

Wanting to serve,
Alex Hinton
Thank you, Alex, for being my honored guest blogger today!  May God bless your heart and always keep it full of love and the desire to serve!

Clara Hinton (mom)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day - Let's Share the Love!

On March 16, 2013 a team of seven will depart for Haiti once again.  Some of us know each other; others of us will be meeting for the first time.  Our common ground is a strong desire to "share the love" in Haiti!

Follow along with me and watch the story unfold from last year's trip to help you get a better idea of what it was like for us to "share the love" in Haiti!  The smiles of these thankful children will melt your heart -- guaranteed! 

"Jesus loves the little children -- all the children of the world!"  These are "our children" in Haiti!

She was such a sweetheart -- so sick from malnourishment.  She is our neighbor, a child precious in the sight of God.  A soul who longs to be fed -- both physically and spiritually.  Oh, what a privilege it is to help!

We even got to help with hair cutting day at the orphanage!

Words can't express the joy it was to be part of the hands and feet that handed out rice to those who hadn't eaten anything for days!  God bless those who gave so generously back home so that the team could be the deliverers of this labor of love!  I'll never eat a grain of rice again without saying a prayer of thanks -- and without the desire to share! 

Wash day is every day at the orphanage!  And, great care is taken to grow fresh garden vegetables -- not easy to do in the blazing heat and drought of the summer!

These children wait -- and wait -- and hope -- and pray that someone will come!  Someone who will hold them, teach them, talk with them, and care!!!  They long for the hands and feet of Jesus to walk and talk among them! 

Never will I forget what the interpreter told me:  "The girls are very shy -- they don't know how to act.  Nobody has ever told them that they are beautiful before."  I cried.  I still pray and cry for these lovely girls!

I could post so many more pictures -- tons of them.  I took over a thousand while in Haiti last year.  Why?  Because I wanted to capture as much as I could so that my heart would never again grow cold or luke warm to the needs of others. 

I'll be leaving again for Haiti in just a few weeks -- March 16, 2013.  If your heart is moved to "share the love", will you help by giving towards this trip for the children?   They need food.  They need love.  They need medical help.  They need Jesus.  They need people to roll up their sleeves and go.  They need people to give of their finances.  Just $5 -- the cost of a specialty drink in the United States -- can help feed so many children!  You have no idea how far a bag of rice can stretch!   

If you'd like to help "share the love", please do it right now while your heart is moved.  Click on the link and give.  I promise you that every cent will be used for this cause.  There are no hidden agendas.  No hidden administrative costs. 

Yes, I will give to the Haiti mission 2013 trip :  On behalf of the children, thank you so very, very much!

Haiti -- a land of so much natural beauty, but filled with so much pain!  Thank you!  Thank you for helping!

For the children,

PS  I apologize for not having all of my photos lined up properly and for not having all of my script "just so", but I'm still in the learning stages of blogging.  Thanks for understanding!  I'm still very much a work in progress! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

From Rose Bud to Full Blossom!

Most of us are our own worst critics.  We feel inadequate in so many ways, and that inadequacy instills fear in us.  Fear, when fed, prevents us from doing those things that ultimately would give us the courage, energy, and persistence to grow and blossom into our full potential. 

Okay, so here you have it.  I was a victim of my own fear.  For years I've wanted to bloom and I'd get almost to that point of blossoming, and then something inside my crazy head would begin telling me, "You can't do this.  It's a crazy idea.  Why do you think you're qualified?  Other people can speak and write so much better than you!" 

Well, you know what?  This year I've made a decision to blossom!  I'm going from bud to blossom and I'm so excited about it that I'm finding it hard to calm down enough to sleep at night!  Every day I'm taking one action plan -- one step -- towards reaching my full potential to bloom, and it feels soooooooooo  good!

My mini goal is to write one thing that is meaningful each day.  I can do that! In fact, I have been doing that since January 1. My middle-sized goal (where the bud begins to open) is to take these daily writings and turn them into a super inspirational story or a book.  I will do that, and day-by-day I'm taking steps to completing this.  My BIG sized goal (and this is where the blossoming happens)  is to speak to groups of wonderful, awesome people (who don't always know or feel they're wonderful and awesome) about how to turn disappointments and loss in this life into something beautiful. I want to share with thousands how to find their happy place in life!   

Do you have secret goals and aspirations?  Has fear been holding you back?  C'mon and join me in this awesome adventure!  Get started on your dreams.  Share them with someone -- anyone.  Share them here, if you'd like!  And then start working towards your dream step-by-step, and don't let anyone or anything discourage you! Never, ever lose hope in your ability to blossom!! 

 Let's bud, blossom, and bloom together!  If this old mama of eleven can blossom, so can you! 

Clara (Mama Lucca)

PS  It sure does help when you have a cheerleader on your side!  A special thanks to my friend Jen for being in my corner!  It's so much fun for me getting to see her bloom, too! Any other takers on this blooming thing?  Let's put together the brightest, most beautiful bouquet you've ever seen!

Nature is such an inspiration!  Look at those buds!  That's just how we are -- full of potential to bloom!

Oh, yes!  The bud is unfolding and is one step closer to blooming!  You can be like this, too!

The bloom!  Beautiful in every way!!!  From bud to bloom -- NOTHING can stop you except you!

By the way, I love photography but I don't have a fancy, schmancy camera.  These photos were taken with a little point and shoot, so don't put off taking pictures just because you don't have a $500 camera.  A little $89 like mine one will do!

Let's do it!  It's time to take those steps towards finding your happy place!   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Snow: The Beauty and Fun of It All!

Without hesitation, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a snow kind of girl.  I've had to acquire a taste, so-to-speak, for the snow throughout my years living in the Laurel Mountains in Pennsylvania.  Oh, how well I remember moving here from Oklahoma City many years ago on October 1 to find the ground covered in snow.  Little did I know that we wouldn't see a peek of the bare ground until April of the following year!  This place is a far cry from where I grew up in New Jersey along the shore!

Well, if you can't beat it, then you learn to live with it!  And, living for years with a house full of excited, energetic kids who just so happened to love the snow, the white stuff kind of grew on me. 

Every snowflake is unique.  And, when the earth is covered with pure white, there is a sense of calm beauty unlike anything I know.  Pictures say it far better than I could ever describe. Let's enjoy the beauty and fun of the snow together! 

This is the view I get to see on my drive into work every day during the winter.  Beautiful!

Yep, another scene on my way into work.  Am I lucky, or what?  These horses are gorgeous!

Have you figured it out by now that I drive to work on a country road? 

Snow dunes!  You haven't lived until you've explored these mountains of snow!

What a reminder of God and all of His majesty! Take. My. Breath. Away! 

Makes you think of "Little House on the Prarie" days, doesn't it?  Are you beginning to love the snow?  I'm ready to put on the old boots and go for a hike!

Welcome to my home!  When I look out my kitchen window, this is what I see.  Am I blessed, or what?  God sure knows how to give good gifts!!!

And, if you're not into skiing or snowboarding or hiking, you can always take a carriage ride through the snow! 

Me?  Well, I'll just soak away my aches and pains hot tubbing outside on the ski slopes! 

Enjoy the snow!  The seasons are God's gift to us, and I just happen to be blessed enough to live where the winter season gives us snow -- and lots of it! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ice Cream for Medicinal Purposes Only!

The day began as another typical day at a work training.  The classes were long and often dry and somewhat boring.  Little did I know that this day four years ago would be far from typical, though!  In fact, this day  is still effecting my life yet today! 

The phone call came in midday, and it wasn't pretty.  "Your funding has just been cut by at least fifty percent and orders are to call each of your providers to stop spending another cent until we find out more about this crisis.  We might be closing our doors at the end of the month."

As a recently divorced mom (ouch!  It still pains me to even say the word "divorce" -- we'll talk more about that in another post) and the sole provider for our home, my head started throbbing and felt like it was going to split wide open.  A bazillion thoughts went circling through my brain and the most common one was, "You and the girls are going to be homeless.  You'll have to live in a shelter or some tent in the middle of no-man's land." 

If you're like me when you get hit with bad news, you want to do what every woman wants to do:  eat everything in sight and go shopping!  So, that is exactly what this woman set out to do! 

It just so happened that there was an ice-cream social planned for that afternoon of our training, and I'll tell you what -- I ate ice cream like there was no tomorrow, and I've never regretted doing it, either!  Every one of those five thousand calories tasted scrumptious!   

Oh, my goodness!  These fresh strawberries were so sweet and juicy -- tasted like they were picked fresh off of the vine!  And, the cherries are a "must have" for any sundae of mine! Lots of them piled on top!

And, the toppings!  Every topping you could think of was there on that dessert table!  Insert drooling mouth right here.  All kinds of nuts, chocolates, sauces, and the fancy, schmancy whipped cream.  Oh, yeah!  Gobs and gobs of the real stuff whipped to perfection!!

What can I say?  When you're on a roll, go with it.  Following the sundaes, came slushies, smoothies, and milkshakes, too!   Yes, there really is a medicinal purpose for ice cream!   It preserves a woman's sanity when faced with a crisis!

PS Any flavor will do!  I've tried them all (I think) and I haven't found a combination yet that I don't absolutely love!  *For medicinal purposes only, of course! 

Note:  To those who have been so kind in asking, thankfully I do still have my job, although the funding cuts remain in place.  I love the work that I do, as well as love the people I work with!  And, these funding cuts made it possible for me to branch out and do some part-time work which has also given me opportunities to meet many, many new and wonderful people.  Am I blessed, or what?  :-)