About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.


Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Moving forward

We sadly have had to say goodbye to Dallas Baptist University for a while, which left me with many conflicting emotions that have taken me some time to process and sort through. Now that the second semester has officially started as of this last week, the reality that my son is no longer there really hit me.

College proved to be a struggle from the first week of his first semester, while at the same time, an experience like no other that he absolutely cherished. The English he needed to know and use in college definitely surpassed his ability quite often, but his lack of study skills and time-management skills (and his heightened social/emotional needs due to his background) really kicked his butt this last semester. The school worked with him, mentored him, provided all sorts of tutoring and writing help, but I never saw the drive he needed that could help him find success. Despite all the extra support, connection, prayer, and encouragement behind him, he just couldn't pull it off.  Truth is, he gave up trying, knowing yet not fully understanding the consequences behind that choice. The government will only extend so much grace in offering financial aid. Now he'll have to work even twice as hard to earn that aid back if he wants to continue his studies at DBU. The effects of background trauma are real, and unfortunately, sometimes just unavoidable. 

So, we were left with no choice but to bring him back home and give him time to reflect and regroup, to find himself...and mature a little bit more.

As soon as I finally finished getting his room turned back into a bedroom that reflected his color choice and personality (after finally clearing my classroom out), I began to use that room again as my prayer room. It's amazing what that little room does for my soul. Oh, the stories that it holds and the prayers that have been baked into those walls for him and two of his siblings. That room fills me with such a deep appreciation for my relationship with God and a joy for how I've seen Him work, bringing beauty out of anguish. My faith has been challenged and has grown by leaps and bounds within the four walls of that little room.

Every morning over the last month or two before he came home, I'd sit on the futon couch in there and pray so faithfully for my son, begging God to help him maintain the GPA he needed to keep his funding so that he could stay at DBU. God provided resources we never could have dreamed of that helped him get through those first three semesters, and we truly believed he had all the support he needed to make it. Yet as I prayed for God to keep him there, I also found myself praying that He'd give us wisdom to know how to handle things if he didn't. Wisdom to deal with having a 21 year old back at home after a year and a half of living away from us. Independent, hanging out with friends 24/7 with very little adult supervision or guidance. He just didn't have the maturity to balance that privilege with the responsibilities that came with it, and I feel God was preparing me to bring him back home for the nurturing and guidance he still lacked.

When that final week of finals came, we sadly learned that he'd already thrown in the towel and stopped trying. Rather than picking him up for a month of winter break, we had to empty his apartment of all of his things and move him back home into that little room. Even though he knew his own choices led him straight back home, he was so angry to be here. Meanwhile we also struggled with quite a bit of anger and disappointment. None of that made a good combination.

But then we offered grace. Mike followed a nudging from the Holy Spirit to take Juan out for lunch, to verbally extend him grace, lay down a few expectations for his new role in our home, and to just clear the slate and support him moving forward. Things really lightened up after that, and though we still see a little boy trapped in an adult body, we've seen him try a bit harder to assume some responsibilities and realize that we work together as a family around here.

We tried to just enjoy a small vacation as a family and create more memories over the Christmas holiday, and then he started applying for jobs. I figured a wide open schedule would help him land a job quickly, but no such luck. I kept praying for just the right job for him, one that will help him figure himself out and guide him toward making better future choices regarding how he manages his time. I also prayed that God would open up just the right job that will connect him with people that can help him mature as a young adult.

I took him to school with me to volunteer for two days in my classroom the first week he was home, and my kids absolutely adored him. He worked so well with one particular student with special needs, and I let him know that he definitely had a gift for working with that child. That got us thinking about the possibility of him working in a school as a classroom assistant. So, he applied for four totally different aide positions within the district at four different schools (two elementary schools and two high schools). We were all thrilled when he got the call offering him the job to work with special needs students at his own brother's high school, just straight up the road from our house.

The waiting game has been painful--as he still sits waiting on a fingerprint appointment to be able to officially start, but I'm thankful we're waiting on final details for a job he's already been offered rather than to still be sitting waiting on yet another interview.

One thing God has taught me with this particular child (from the beginning of our first adoption process for him) is that I can't make plans for him. I can pray for him daily and then just trust God with him day by day, week by week. Every day I have to put him in God's hands and trust that I've done all I can do. God has great plans for him, and DBU is just not in that plan for this semester or possibly this whole next year. All I have to do is go in his room, remember all that God has done, and remind myself that God chose us to be his family.

He may be 21 years old, but he still desperately needs the love, nurture, and guidance that only a mom and dad can give him. As I've said before, four years at home with us were just not enough to fill in all the gaps. So we work hard to find that balance of treating him as the adult that he is (with many hard, natural consequences) while loving him, nurturing him, connecting with him, and guiding him at the emotional level we see him at each day.

DBU may still be in his future (he truly does want to go back), but we'll let God guide us from here to know when he's ready and mature enough to tackle another class or two. For now, I look forward to seeing how God uses this new job to continue to guide him. And I trust that those first three semesters at DBU fulfilled a very significant purpose in who he is meant to become.


So long, for now, DBU. Who knows? In just three short semesters, I may have another son heading your way--or perhaps two at the same time. 
 

Friday, January 4, 2019

A few coloring reflections

I love to color. When you mix the quiet, reflective, introverted nature in me with my need to feel creative, I could spend hours each day with a simple coloring book and a little peace and quiet. There's something so therapeutic about adding color to a blank page, taking a black and white surface and making it come alive with whatever colors you choose. It gives you a sense of control, while at the same time giving your mind time to just think and reflect. 

This particular page really got me thinking. 

The thought of the mission field fascinated me as a child and adolescent. I always craved simplicity, spent a lot of quiet time alone with the Lord, and longed to travel to other parts of the world to spread the gospel.

As a young teenager, I babysat two children born to a couple who had met in Ecuador. I wondered, "Maybe God will send me to Ecuador someday."

Around the same time, my brother brought two beautiful Dominican young women into my life, who became my spiritual sisters over time. They talked about their country all the time and taught me so much about the Spanish language. Perhaps God had a plan for me in the Dominican Republic?

My senior year in high school, after four years of Spanish classes, I finally stepped out of my own country for a week-long mission trip to a little town called Tasquillo, Hidalgo in Mexico. I remember standing alone on a balcony looking out into the mountain landscape and watching a funeral procession walk down the street, thinking to myself, "I'll be back."

I very naturally fell in love with the Spanish language and could hardly wait to see where God might take me as a vocational missionary after graduating college, though I felt pretty confident He'd lead me to either Central or South America.  

At first I thought  I'd teach in a missionary school, and then later I wondered about teaching English as a Second Language overseas. (Nursing also crossed my mind, but I hated science classes, so that didn't last long.) I majored in Christian Ministries with a cross-cultural focus, while taking a few extra classes in the education and psychology field. My junior year, I boarded a plane in Chicago with a new friend from Grace College, and we landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina to live as exchange students with two different Christian families. I'd be there for the following semester with the sole purpose of taking my Spanish to a near-fluent level. My friend had committed to stay for the entire year. While there, I met and grew close to many missionary families who helped lead the church we attended there. 

On one of my final weekends in Argentina, I traveled with several of the young people from the church to Cordoba, a much more rural town, to attend a Word of Life youth missions conference. Almost all of the speakers came from the United States, so I heard every message twice, first in English, then translated into Spanish. One speaker's words impacted me deeply, and I still remember them today, 21 years later. In fact, they are the only words I remember from the entire conference.

"We've got to be at the point where we stop saying, 'I'm dying to stay, but I'm willing to go!' Rather we need to be able to honestly say to God, 'I'm dying to go, but I'm willing to stay." The point was about surrendering our hearts to go, no matter what. I remember thinking, 'I'm ready, God! Send me!' But I feel God imprinted those words on my heart for another reason, though I wouldn't understand why for many more years.

I came home from Argentina a few weeks later speaking so much more Spanish than before, realizing my whole world had just multiplied. During the following semester, I worked part-time in the evenings teaching English as a Second Language to students from all over the world. Six months later, my fiance and I boarded another plane in Chicago, this time dropping us off for two long months in Mexico, the same place where I'd stood on the balcony and thought to myself, "I'll be back."

We worked as summer intern missionaries, living alongside two missionary families, one American, one native of Mexico. Mike worked maintenance and building projects, while I taught English as a Second Language to local people in the community and led crafts for Bible School. The couple we lived with mentored us as a soon-to-be-married couple, ready to dive into the mission field. They taught us how to live a surrendered, simplistic life and showed us first hand how you can never outgive God. I was pretty sure we'd found our spot and once again assumed God would bring us back.

The following year I graduated, we got married, and we started our simple life together with the hopes of heading back to Mexico within five or so years after paying off school loans. 

That's also the semester that God opened up a job for me as an ESL teacher/para-professional in a school system that suddenly had a huge influx of Spanish-speaking students. 

I absolutely fell in love with my students. I'd always imagined myself teaching English to Spanish-speaking children, but my imagination had always taken me off to another country. I never thought about the fact that God would bring them to me, here in my own country. 

My husband and I switched to another church in the area where many Argentine families had congregated, including some of the missionaries I'd met in my church in Argentina, and even my Argentine pastor's son's family who lived right down the road from me.  They'd begun a new ministry to reach out to the Hispanic population in our community, and I even had the privilege of taking some of my students to church with me for the weekly AWANA program.

Every week as we walked out of our church doors, we read the sign above the door saying, "You are now entering the mission field."

Perhaps God had used all of my cross-cultural trainings and experiences, along with my degree and passion for ministry, solely to prepare me for the mission field that existed all around me. 

But God must have sat back and laughed at me, thinking, "Oh, dear child. I have so much more planned for your life. I'm just getting started. Hold on."

Hold on, I did. As I suddenly and unexpectedly watched all my plans turn to chaos, my marriage come to near ruin, our finances spin out of control, and my hopes for a life of ministry shatter.

I thought I'd done everything right, so how could God let such disaster come upon my home? 

My boss noticed the look of despair on my face and said, "Rachelle, I'm praying for your miracle." I held on tight to that encouragement.

Then out of the blue, when I thought things couldn't get any worse, God whisked us from Indiana to Texas for me to start a position teaching more bilingual children, but this time in both English and Spanish, and for a teaching salary rather than a paraprofessional one. And for the last 15 years, I've worked with children from the same families in the same school and have become a very solid part of their lives. Children from the U.S., from Mexico, from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and even Colombia. I had one student with a parent from Argentina, and another student with parents from Tasquillo, Hidalgo in Mexico.  

Over the last 15 years, we've been part of a church that has given our family the opportunities to go on mission trips to tell about Jesus in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Michoacan, Mexico, San Jose, California, and in Guatemala. When we came back from each mission trip, the pictures that stood out to everyone were pictures of the kids we served, all with darker skin, dark hair, and dark brown eyes. Yet to me, those children didn't look any different than the students I got to love on and teach every single day during the year.

Our son David has had opportunities to participate on mission trips to serve a homeless population in Waco, Texas, to work with a new church in Colorado, to help new church plants in Los Angeles and Burbank, California, to lead 5-Day Clubs in Arlington, Texas, and to work out in the heat to help improve the living conditions of families living in the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas. As a family, we've met and served alongside missionaries in a Christian school in Bogota, Colombia, where we also visited an orphanage, supported an orphan as he became an adult, and adopted our son. 

I've led women's Bible studies in my church for the last ten years, ministering to the very heart of the home, making a difference in entire famlies by teaching women how to make prayer and the Word a priority in their lives. I've helped other women learn to pray for their husbands as I learned to pray for mine. I've written blogs and books about grief, loss, and God's redeeming power. I published my books with a ministry (ABH) that continues to reach hundreds of people in Africa because of their obedience to follow God to Tanzania and make an impact there. Though my books are not books they take to Africa with them, by being published under their name, I consider myself a partner in their ministry. 

And just a year and a half ago, I got to take a pair of my books to Spain, continuing to minister to others, one person at a time,  by sharing my own struggles and the faith I cling to through them.

Looking back, I can see that the things God allowed to disravel in my life that made me think disqualified me for the ministry He'd called me to actually served to equip me for the ministries He had planned for me. He turned the very things that I wanted to erase from my timeline into my greatest assets to minister and connect with others. 

Just a few weeks ago, my friend from Buenos Aires, Argentina traveled to Cordoba and posted pictures of this year's current youth mission conference, and those words from the mission conference of 1997 came flooding back to me. "I'm dying to go, but I'm willing to stay." 

Less than a month before that conference in 1997, my son was born in Bogota, Colombia, though I woudn't meet him for another ten years and adopt him yet five years after that. 

If I had "forced my way" onto a foreign mission field as a vocational missionary, I would have missed him. And so much more. I'm so glad He called me to stay.

Now Tuesday morning I get to go back to my dark skinned, dark-eyed, Spanish-speaking children and breathe life into them. Every day with them is a blessing, even on the long, hard, frustrating days of dealing with the public educational system. I love what I do and the families I get to work with and be part of.

See where a day of coloring will take me? Like I said, it's so therapeutic at times. A wonderful, peaceful way to reflect on life. 






Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Blessed

My first New Year's greeting came in a text message from a 16 year old girl in Spain, about 7 hours before midnight in Texas.

My second one came in a voice text from a 25 year old young man in Argentina, about four hours before midnight in Texas.

My third greeting came in person from my husband and  21 year old Colombian son (brother of the first two), while we ate our 12 grapes to make 12 wishes for the coming year, we held money in our hands at the stroke of midnight, we ran around the house with a suitcase in hand, we wrote our regrets from 2018 and burned them in the fire, and we ate homemade arepas and drank Colombiana drinks to add the rich Colombian flavor and tradition to our home.

My fourth greeting came in a text message from David, just before he came home from a party with his core group of church friends.

More greetings came and went, but those first four just reminded me of how blessed I am to have these four precious "children/young adults" in my life. Somtimes I still just stand in awe.

Word for #2019

A list of resolutions never seem to stick in my brain long enough to stay committed to them, so I stopped making that list several years ago. Even before the "Word for the Year" movement started, I began choosing a single word to guide my year. It's amazing to look back and see how that one word truly did define and guide that entire year.

In 2013, while still in the middle of Juan's second adoption process, I focused on the word TRUST. I don't think there's any need to further explain that one. Enough said.

In 2014, I felt God push me to get out and LIVE more. With the adoption process behind us and a new son at home, I embraced the chance to finally live again without all the turmoil that the adoption process brought us, twice.

In 2015, I felt compelled to GIVE more. Not just money, but my time and energy. I'd seen God bless us so abundantly that I wanted to give back, or pay it forward.

In 2016, I wanted to embrace JOY. Little did I know I'd only get a  taste of the incredible joy coming the following year.

In 2017, I needed renewed FOCUS. I felt completely wiped out (probably from too much JOY searching!). I'd taken on more than I could handle, my commitments were scattered, I tried to please too many people, and I needed to rein myself in. I backed up, pulled away from a ton of commitments, and made room for God to give me one of the greatest gifts ever. He put Laura back in my life, fulfilling one of the deepest longings of my heart.

In 2018, my heart was filled to the brim, so I chose to CHERISH all the blessings God gave me. I wrote less and experienced more, cherishing so many precious memories and just holding them close to my heart.

So now that 2019 has arrived, I had several words floating around in my mind. LOVE, SAVOR, RADIATE, FRAGRANCE and DELIGHT all caught my attention, but none of them seemed to capture my current state of mind or need. I opened my current Bible study materials for the day and asked God to point out just the right word for this year.

The last year brought about a ton of change, and the current year brings even more. Change brings a need for added flexibility and patience, neither of which come easily. I'm pretty stuck to my routines, and I'm very self-protective of my need for periods of silence and solitude. God also gave me a classroom full of students with a variety of special needs, moreso than in the past, along with a few children hurting very deeply from signficant loss. Sometimes I find myself completely inadequate to reach them them all or to connect with each one in the way that they need. You can be sure I spend time every morning asking God for wisdom, guidance, and strength.

My hope is that I will rely so much on Jesus through this current season that others will see Him SHINE through me. As Kelly Mintor stated in her study, All Things New, "It's through our weakness that the power of Christ shines most brightly."

Here's a song that kind-of sums it up:
https://youtu.be/MVU3wX7Sbog



Monday, December 31, 2018

25 Defining Moments of 2018

25 Defining Moments of 2018
(I planned on a list of 18 for 2018, but I had too many good ones not to share)

1. Meeting one of the directors from KidSave, personally sharing with her our entire adoption journey of how God turned our story of defeat into a story of His victory in so many ways. Also, to have her look me in the eye and tell me how sorry she was that they didn't give me the support that I needed when our adoption originally failed meant so much to me. Not that I needed that apology, but it was just another way God has brought closure to that painful chapter and redeemed it in such positive ways.

2. Meeting my son for lunch after he served as a leader for the youth retreat called The WKND. So many opportunities we all could have missed. 

3. Watching David play soccer. One of my favorite pasttimes.

4. Tea with my mom. On any random Saturday. Just because we can.


5. Being spoiled by my students with enough flowers to open my own floral shop, and a surprise birthday party for me!

 6. Birthday coffee date with Mike and Juan before dropping him off for a last minute summer job opportunity at Pine Cove.

7. A wedding that brought my dearest friends back to town for a day (joining us all from Texas, Mexico, and Hawaii). Saying yes to that first mission trip with Lake Pointe gave us friends that will always feel like family. 

 8. And the braces came off!!! I still remember wondering how we'd ever pay for braces as my husband walked through unemployment for almost half a year still not that long ago. And to now be on the other side of those braces and those payments brings me deep gratitude. 

 9. David passed his driver's test!

 10. I knew God chose this study for me to teach, and then I watched Him bring women from all over the place to dig into the Word with me all summer long. I'm still in awe.

 11. First summer project--repainting David's room from the deep purple he wanted as a middle-schooler to the patriotic colors he now displays with pride as a junior in high school. 

 12. David's first vehicle, which has turned into the perfect ride for him and a wonderful opportunity to work with and learn from his dad. It's matured him in many ways. 


13. Lunch with my dad on his birthday.

 14. Juan's summer job at Pine Cove. It was a long, hard summer, but I have a feeling it was a summer that will have ripple effects into his life for a very long time. 

15. Dressing up like cows for free food at Chick-Fil-A. It's a family tradition now, even though David now works there and gets free food all the time. 


16. David's mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas. I love that he and Kyleigh (his sweetheart) have such a heart to serve. 

 17. Juan's apartment life experience at DBU. College continued to be quite a challenge for him, but these apartment life memories will follow him forever. 
 18. Leading this study in the fall--one of the most intimate groups I've ever led. We learned so much together and grew much closer than I could have imagined. Then after leading two Love God Greatly studies in a row, God gave me the opportunity to meet the founder of the Love God Greatly studies!

 19. Getting to teach 2nd grade again. 
I could not be any happier as a teacher as I have been this year. Despite a very challenging way to start the year (with the building still under construction the first few weeks of school, joining a leaderless, brand new team, and feeling lost in my own classroom even to this day), I absolutely love being back in second grade, and I adore my students (half of whom I had in my class for Pre-K). 

 20. Celebrating my son's 21st birthday with him making the choice to be baptized. 

 21. Christmas as a family.


 22. Reminders of the precious child God has given me to raise into adulthood, with a special Christmas Eve message focused on adoption.

 23. New family traditions for Christmas.

 24. A quick, fun family vacation in San Antonio 
as we've had very few opportunities to all be together this year. I love traveling to new places with this crew. We spent a night on the Riverwalk, visited the Alamo, and then used our Six Flags season passes one last time before they expire by experiencing Holiday in the Park San Antonio style. What a beautiful park with super fun rollercoasters!








25 Christmases ago, my first Christmas in Texas, this young man sent me a Christmas card in the mail saying maybe we could go out sometime. Here we are, 25 Christmases later. :)

 I'd say that's worth celebrating, wouldn't you?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours. 💗

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

I'm exhausted, as I am recalling now that Thanksgiving break has never been one to leave me feeling refreshed and rested, but my heart is full. However, for the moment, I am embracing a few hours of silence, hoping to recharge enough to head back in to a classroom full of seven-year-olds tomorrow morning. It's amazing what a little solitude and silence can do for me.

Thanksgiving break held a lot of purposeful, intentional activity, like:
 An afternoon coffee/game date with David. ( I love how we always resort to games when we have a little extra time on our hands).
 A nice dinner out with Juan after I picked him up from school and then took him to take his Spanish CLEP test (which he rocked, as expected).  A few extra Spanish credits to add to his transcript to get him a little further ahead with his studies, credits that he doesn't have to pay for and classes he won't have to take.
 Thanksgiving at my parents' house for the first time in many, many yearts. 
 Some scrumptious pies for dessert. 
 Cousin time.

 A Cowboys win
 Nice fall and Thanksgiving decorations for a change (I am not much of a decorator.)
 A little more game time with David.
 More fall decorations.

 Juan dancing while he made his grandma a pot of ajiaco soup, a soup that's typical in Bogota, Colombia.

 Family time--even Matt, who came on crutches after breaking his pelvis just a week before. (Ang is there, too, just taking the picture.)

Free coffee at Dunkin Donuts (thanks to the Cowboys win) after a day of Black Friday shopping.
 A guys' night out to watch the Sachse football team in the playoffs.
 Juan made me changua for breakfast, a typical Colombian breakfast that we enjoyed many times while waiting in Colombia for his adoption to finalize.
A coffee/tea/soda date with one of Juan's high school ESL teachers--one of the many people I am thankful for God strategically placing in Juan's life.
 A little Christmas decorating  with some of my favorite nativity sets
The set we had when I was growing up that I still put out every year.
My Jesus tree with ornaments that have different names of Jesus 
(my favorite decoration of all)



 A new nativity my mom just gave me from her collection she had in St. Louis.
The new tree we bought two years ago and haven't used yet (due to traveling last year). The cat posed just perfectly under the tree for me, but I forgot to move the shoes out of the way before I took the pic.)
A selfie at church with one of my favorite friends.

A quick selfie with my son, just before I left him at DBU for the next three weeks before Christmas break. He sure is in a good place there. I loved having him home for a few days, but I love watching him continue to grow and learn in such a good place. 

In the midst of all the gathering with family and friends, I did cherish some time alone to clean, reorganize (at least a little bit), and read two whole books that I've been wanting to read.

A full break. Fulfilling and fun.