Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Her Big Day

I am very late in getting to this but I wanted to share some pics from Cristina's big day, she had her Quinceanera at the end of October and I was just devastated that we couldn't be there. This is a big deal in the Latin culture, it is a celebration of girl's coming of age when she turns 15 (somewhat equivalent to our "sweet 16") where the girl is typically given a gift of religious significance (cross, Bible, etc) from her father during a ceremony and then a party follows where she first dances with her father. At a place like Casa with so many girls turning 15, they have reserved a weekend in the end of October each year to celebrate all the girls' who are 15's Quinceanera at the same time. I love to read about it each year, the girls wake up before daybreak to start getting ready and they get all fixed up. Older girls and the dorm parents help to do their hair and makeup, they have fancy dresses, then there is a ceremony where Mike or Papi as they call him (the founder of Casa and father to all the children at Casa) gives them each a necklace with a cross pendant. Mike is a phenomenal speaker, one of the best preachers I have ever heard so I am sure the ceremony is a tear jerker. The best par of all is he and his wife Dottie (Mami to all the kids there) take the group of girls to a fancy hotel in Antigua where they spend the weekend together. Sam and I went with a group of kids to this same hotel before and let me assure you, it is a 5 star luxurious resort! We were amazed at such a gem right in the middle of Antigua, it was just gorgeous. My understanding is that the hotel owners are a fan of Casa and the ministry there so they open their doors when they can to help. The girls as you can imagine look forward to this all year. They soak up all the one on one time with Papi & Mami and they get to use their sponsor money to shop in the market, they can swim in the pool there (many can't even swim though b/c they haven't really had a chance) and just enjoy life outside of the orphanage. Mike wrote in his journal this year that they had a great time and this bunch of girls was exceptional. He and Dottie had no problems with any of them and, in fact, they were suprised at how they all stuck close to home. They didn't really want to go off and do things, they wanted more to spend time with Papi and Mami talking and doing devotions and they used their shopping money to buy gifts for others rather than themselves. WOW! I think it is great that Casa goes out of their way to celebrate each girls' quince and make it as special as possible.

I want to share a sweet story that shows just how different, set apart, she really is. She is so wise beyond her years, I tell you she is just phenomenal. I will never forget one moment that stands out in my mind. I was sitting and chatting with several of the girls about all kinds of girly things. It was such a fun moment. I was playing with Cristina's hair and a couple girls were doing my hair and others were doing each other's nails. We were talking about boys and getting married and how Sam and I fell in love. Then since Quince was only a few months away, the conversation drifted to talks of which dress they had picked (people from states donate prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, etc for them to have, they have a good selection!) and how they wanted to wear their hair. Several of them talked about the pretty dresses their sponsors were sending, I'm talking fabulous gorgeous mega fancy dresses..... and THAT is when I made a crash landing straight down from cloud 9!! I went from thinking how I wouldn't want to be any other place on all of earth to feeling sick at my stomach. Instantly all these thoughts flooded in.. she will want us to buy her a dress... how much would a dress like that cost.. there is no way we could afford that, maybe I could contact her other sponsors..what am I going to do???!! I don't want to disappoint her. The girl has been through so much in her life and she deserves to have a beautiful dress on her big day, we will just take out a credit card or something. That's what we'll do. Sam will understand I am sure. Then "Terrrrri".. I was brought back from my thoughts by the adorable way she says my name with her accent rolling the "r". She took my hand and rubbed the top of it and said "you no worry about me. Come with me" and she led me over to the side away from the others. "Oh no, I was just thinking.." but she knew. "you and Sam no worry about dress for me. I will have beautiful dress from here. I only want you to remember me. I not like those silly girls. The dress is not important it is not about the dress" and she proceeded to yet again demonstrate to me just HOW FAR she has come. I mean let's get honest. I am sure my mom will agree, at 15, I would have been ALL ABOUT the dress, as were the other girls. I would have wanted the best of the best. I still felt bad though, so I explained to her how with Sam not having a job we didn't have extra money and how we had saved up just to buy her the gifts we brought (clothes, jacket,bras/underwear, shoes, etc.). Her response? She explained that her shoes we brought last year had holes in them now and so she greatly appreciated the new shoes and clothes, those were what she needed and they are so special and she is thankful and she would never want to think of us spending money on something she didn't need, and she didn't need the dress. Again, wow. Most girls her age I know would have wanted more clothes or maybe complained that what we brought wasn't "cool" etc. SO...I thought this would be the perfect time to give her the suprise we had brought. I had wanted to wait until just the right time to give it to her and I just knew this was it. I told her to hang on and I ran into the gringo dorm to get the little box. It was a beautiful heart shaped metal tin with blue flowers that a bracelet from Sarah (thanks Sarah! I still love it!!) had come in. Inside was a special set of jewelry for her to wear on her special day, that was VERY hard for me to part with . It was ear rings, necklace, and a bracelet that Sam had given me when we first started dating and I explained how special it was to me and that I wanted her to have it. She said she planned to keep it and give it to her daughter one day which made me beam!! So sweet! She said the jewelry meant more to her than any dress and she kept hugging me.

So, fast forward a few months and we get home. Although I knew in my heart of hearts that she understood about the dress, it still weighed on my mind. Then, one glorious morning I saw a yard sale sign on the way out of our neighborhood. Sam and I decided on spur of moment to go and guess what we found?? A dress her size the color she had described as wanting and was only $5!!!! Needless to say we bought it. Sam and I both agreed we felt it was a "God thing" and even though we didn't have the extra $5 we agreed we should spend it and trust God with the rest. Gloria had some great ideas as to how we could "fancy it up" and she and I went and bought the most beautiful crystal beads. Gloria worked for 2 weeks sewing the beads on by hand and I worked for probablly the equivalent of a day. Yes, Gloria blew me away with her bead skillz (the woman can seriously do everything!). She has grown to love Cristina over the years as she translates all our letters to each other. Here is a pic of the final product...

Even the fringe was put together and then sewn on by hand. She is just too sweet to do all that work for Cristina. I never even asked her to, she just wanted to. She said I love her and I want her to feel like a princess.

Well... do you notice anything from the pics below??? That's right. The dress didn't fit her! We went to so much trouble. We mailed the dress with matching thread and needle and I had arranged for Carolyn 2 to alter and shorten when it arrived. Tim and Patty were here in the states visiting family so thankfully they offered to take it back to Guate with them, so I had to send it to Tim's sister's house. It was such an ordeal. Only for Cristina to get the dress and be so excited, Carolyn said she was over the moon and then she tried it on and it was too small up top. I was so sad when they emailed that it didn't fit! I was just confused?? Why go through all that trouble and then for what? For it to sit in some clothes closet until another girl picks it??? Made no sense to me. That is.. until I got her letter after Quince. Cristina wrote about her big day and all that she did on her weekend but mostly about how much it meant to have "her family" send such a special dress that so much love and time went into. She said that nobody had ever worked on anything like that just for her with her in mind and she wrote how it had helped her draw close to God and made her feel so happy and loved. She thanked us that our friends and family are also so wonderful to her and love her too (we send pics of our families to her all the time, she knows them all by name, even all my little cousins and she REALLY loves Shelby's red hair. They don't see red heads much over there, ha ha). She said thank you for taking care of her so well and for loving her with so much passion (I know..some things sound strange with the translation) and that she learns so much from me and Sam and this dress just showed her how she needs to work on loving others at Casa better and being a strong example. I read on the journal that she preached to the teenagers a few days before her Quince. She is being used in a big way there and among the many things we pray for her, one prayer we always have each day is that God will help Sam, Sammy, and I help her as best we can to be the woman that God has planned. She is doing a mighty fine job of it. =)

I included all this detail about the dress to simply state what I learned through from the "dress drama" as I was calling it. I should never have doubted God when I got that email. Honestly I was frustrated that so much time and energy and even money (those beads were not cheap!) went in to it for what I thought was nothing. Yes it was good that Sam and I were sensitive to His leading and trusted that we should buy the dress but then, just like always when things didn't go according to MY plans.. I bailed ship and got all frustrated. I should have known God had bigger plans and if getting this dress in the mail made such a difference in her life and meant so much to her, it was worth every minute and penny plus many more. When we first started sponsoring her, all that I had hoped to do and the role I hoped to have in her life seemd just impossible. How could God use me a very busy grad student in Fl to reach a very lost little girl in Guatemala?? Impossible. How could I convey my love for her, His love for her through a few letters a year? Prayer. Prayer was the answer. It was through prayer for her and drawing close to him and pouring my heart out on her behalf that he did the impossible. This dress is just one little example, he doesn't need much to work with- a $5 yard sale dress for instance- and willing hearts and He can do the impossible. Well.. God has outdone Himself! He has connected the two of our hearts and intertwined our life stories beyond my wildest imagination.

********* also, for those of you who sponsor kids from Casa, I HIGHLY recommend having someone who speaks Spanish translate your letters for you. Have you ever noticed that what your kid wrote seems really long but then the translated version is so short? Well, after having Gloria translate letters for almost 3 years now for me and checking what the kid at Casa who did the translation wrote.. a lot is missed. A lot of really important stuff that you would want to have heard, so just something to think about doing. Yes it takes some extra time but so totally worth it. *********

Now onto the pics! A big thanks to Carolyn for taking so many pics for me. She knows I am slightly obsessed. ha ha. Here is Cristina entering the ceremony with her escort

Here is Mike giving her necklace

My beautiful sweet girl all grown up! I still can't believe how much she has changed!

Here she is with Mike and Dottie (her Mami & Papi)

Here is the entire group.. just beautiful! Check out Katerine's dress.. I told her she looks like Miss Guatemala!!!
these are all the graduates..........Cristina passed!! She used to really struggle in school, she had not gone to school before coming to Casa at 12 years old. She is doing so great in school now! She was so worried about her big math test, if she failed it she couldn't graduate to 6th grade but we talked a lot about studying and school etc. She vowed to pray for my quals and me for her math and we BOTH PASSED our big exams!!! So proud of her!!!

Here she is with Irma, her sister. Irma is the one who went back to the house Cristina was in with her dad and stole her out of it, right before she was sold. She brought her to Casa and asked if they could both stay and get an education.
Here she is with her boyfriend, Josue who Andrea and family sponsors. Andrea and I think they will get married, they are so sweet together and have been together for 2 years now! Once they do, we figure this will make US family! That means little Kylie who Andrea and her husband just adopted will then be related to Sammy! They will be cousins! Yay! Did you follow that?? ha ha. We can dream, right? Josue is the sweetest boy. He has a really good heart and takes great care of Cristina.