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.


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Monday, July 9, 2018

The gift of Pine Cove

Last fall, when Juan was supposed to be looking for an on-campus job to work at while in school, he sends me a picture of a flyer from Pine Cove Camp regarding summer jobs for 2018. He wrote, "So, I have an interview for this tomorrow. What do you think?"

It was completely out of the blue and caught me off guard. I'd heard about Pine Cove on the radio every year, but I knew nothing about it or even where it was. The flyer said he could work for the first half of the summer, the second half of the summer, or for the whole summer. We'd already told him that summers full of camp, mission trips, and vacations no longer existed for him and that he'd spend each summer working and taking extra classes as long as he was in college. So I told him he'd probably have to tell them he could work for just half of the summer so he could take a summer class, too. It was still pretty early in the fall, so summer was a long way away.

He said, "Okay, Mom. Thanks." And that was that. He had his interview the next day, said it went really well and that they'd let him know.

His roommate, Sam, also applied.

By mid-December, they'd already chosen their staff and let everyone know. Juan never heard anything back from them, even though Sam did. So he kept on applying for any summer camp position he could, some in different states all over the country, assuming at least someone else from DBU would be going, too.

Juan came home for spring break still without a summer position or plan. We said, "You need to call Pine Cove to find out if they have a place for you." He did, and they said they'd already filled all of their positions. They had him reapply, though, just in case. 

At the end of April, I sat with  my small group and shared my upcoming prayer request--for my boys to find jobs. 

Just a few days later, Juan texted me.

"Mom, I got a job!!!!"

"That's great, son. Where?"

"At Pine Cove. They called and said they had a position open in maintenance, but I have to work for the whole summer. I have to be there May 12th."

Then I looked at the calendar and realized that was only two weeks away!

He scrambled to finish the semester to the best of his ability (that's another story), while packing up his dorm room and getting ready for a summer away from home, working in a job he really didn't even understand what he'd signed up for.

(Meanwhile, David got offered a local part-time job that same week and started the following week. God sure does take us seriously when we pray.)

We had a wedding to be at on May 12th, so that posed a problem. But then Juan reminded us that Sam was going to be working at Pine Cove for the summer, too, and he had to be there on the same day. So they planned to drive down there together. We took him to Sam's house on the morning of the 12th, and that's where I found out from Sam's mom that the boys weren't allowed to have any type of electronics with them and that they would only have their phones on them from Saturdays at 1:00 till Sundays at 1:00-- only for 24 hours, once a week, all summer.

Wow. Only God knew the plans He had for Juan this summer. Taming that electronic addiction, putting him in a small, uncomfortable cabin, teaching him new skills that he'd never had a single desire to learn, working him harder than he'd ever worked before, stretching him and teaching him to rely on Christ's strength rather than his own, all while building him up spiritually, bonding him tightly with solid Christian friends from all over the country, giving him godly supervisors and mentors that believe in him and encourage him, letting him use his own spiritual gift of encouragement to others, drawing him much closer to his college roommate, and keeping him immersed in the gospel. 

As much as I've missed seeing him and talking to him more than our once-a-week phonecall, I am truly thankful and once again in awe of how God is orchestrating the events of this boy's life. With tears in my eyes, I can only say, "Thank you, God."  



 Standing in the welcoming line to guide the parents who were coming to pick up their campers, also switching on and off with others to help carry all the luggage back to their cars. (And from what he tells me, that's the hardest job of all, especially when it's for middle school girls. They sure do pack a lot!)





 While Mike, David, and I waited for his last recap meeting to get over, we had a little fun on the basketball court together. 
 Then I decided to peek in on the meeting (that I later realized we were supposed to be at).
The community in that room between the counselors and staff just blew me away.

 Along with the prayer support that exists between them all. This is how they end every single week after the campers leave before they get the next 24 hours off. 
 Juan in one of the cabins (they change cabins often, depending on the number of campers), getting his laundry to take with us. 
 Just a friendly little armadillo walking by.
 A quick pic of the cabin that I wasn't supposed to go in. Oops.


A quick pic for Laura, who's missing him, too! 
 Juan showing us his work area, along with all the tools and equipment he's using on the job. Here he is explaining the names for the tractors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and how each tractor matches its name based on the differences in the four gospel writers.
 Sitting on Matthew, the tractor he uses the most.

 New skills he never imagined learning, especially since he calls himself a city boy.
 Now he has finally entered his dad's world. Mike was actually a little jealous of Juan's experience here.





 We stopped for a quick family "selfie" before dropping him off.

Until his friends pulled up, saw us, and offered to take a few better pics for us. :)



He quickly had to change into the blue Pine Cove shirt to get ready for his weekly meeting before the next set of campers came. I'd hoped to get a picture of him and Sam together, but it started to rain, so we had to say a quick goodbye and leave. 

 But after witnessing just an hour or two of Pine Cove and observing all God is doing in, for, and through my son there, this goodbye wasn't a hard one. The next five weeks are going to fly, and I don't want to wish a minute of them away for him. 



The director introduced himself to me and said how much they love having Juan there because he's such a hard worker and is always encouraging everyone. All I could say was how thankful I am that he is there. 

Pine Cove truly is a gift from God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Remembering

I haven't made any big plans this summer. No family vacations, no big trips, no crazy adventures. I've just been spending a lot of time at home, remembering. (And that's okay. Because sometimes remembering is even sweeter than the experiences themselves. Especially when you can see how each experience only represented a small portion of the amazing big picture they created together.)

So here I am, remembering (and cherishing) Spain.


Remembering Guatemala.



Remembering Colombia. Remembering Argentina.


Remembering family vacations to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, visiting famous landmarks in the U.S., riding rollercoasters at Six Flags, watching the World Cup with Colombian flags painted on our faces, and just hanging out around a fire at various campgrounds.






Remembering the excitement and pride over graduation and college orientation. And the struggle that soon followed to figure this college thing out.

Remembering two little pictures that captured my heart TEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH and changed my life forever. All the above memories hinge on those two little pictures and the course of action that followed.

Ten years ago this month, Juan David and his sister bravely got on a plane together with twelve other kids from Colombia to spend five weeks in Austin, Texas, to experience another part of the world, as well as taste a bit of life within a family, while connecting with many prospective adoptive parents interested in adopting an older child.

Ten years ago this month, we made a trip to Austin, Texas to meet both of them, and they have both had my heart ever since.

The events of the last ten years still completely blow my mind, break my heart, and overwhelm me with so much emotion when I take the time to truly reflect over all that has transpired.

This summer I find myself missing my son, as he's away for 13 straight weeks working at a summer camp. The first year of college accustomed me to his absence, but the lack of ability to communicate more than once a week has been hard. I am more than grateful, though, for how God opened up a spot for him there at the very last minute, knowing ahead of time that it would be a stretching opportunity and one that would teach him to unplug and focus on the jobs, tasks, and people right in front of him. I also love how the distance has seemed to bond us and draw our relationship even closer than before.

I've missed watching the World Cup with him this year, sharing in his excitement over Colombia's wins and his (assumed) heartbreak over their most recent loss today. But while he's been gone, I've watched all the games "side by side" with Laura, as we've sent texts and comments back and forth during every single game. Today we shared our excitement over a last minute goal by Colombia and then tears over the final loss. Priceless. The joy of having her in my life again is another reason I pause to just remember.



I just heard this song the other day, and I think it expresses my current thoughts and sentiments exactly. We should always take the time to Remember to Remember.














Tuesday, June 12, 2018

And that's a wrap!

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Literally. 

With the bond work being done in our school this summer, we had to end the year on a much tighter note this year, packing every single thing into a box of some sort or shrink wrap and mark the stuff that couldn't be packed. In addition to all that, we had to take home any personal items, including any and all organizational supplies, games, or materials we've added to the classroom out of our own resources. I've changed grade levels twice in the last fifteen years, but I've never left the building, so I had no idea how much stuff I'd accumulated on my own.


The rest of my stuff now occupies Juan's room while he is gone for the summer, minus the guinea pigs (who went home with a student).

The timing worked out right, though, because as this year started coming to a close, I made the request to change grade levels. Not sure what it was, but as soon as I came back from Christmas break, I felt a growing discontentment with my current placement. I found myself watching the older students, observing their work, and just missing that level of instruction and interaction. The more Pre-K trainings I went to, the more I realized how much I wanted to teach something else. 
We filled all of our open bilingual positions last year, and I was afraid that I'd missed my chance to be able to move to a higher grade. But I finally got the courage to be honest with my new principal and tell him that early childhood just is not my passion and that I truly missed teaching older kids. I told him that I'd taught 4th grade and 2nd grade before teaching Pre-K for the last five years, and that I'd be willing to take ANY open bilingual position next year. 

Thankfully, he heard my plea for a change, but the only available option would be to follow my kids to kindergarten. I'd hoped for an older grade, but at least it got me up a level and gave me a whole day with one group of kids, rather than 44 kids each day for only 3 hours each class. He said if something else opened up over the summer, we could talk again, so I accepted it. I didn't tell my kids I would be their kindergarten teacher, though, just in case another grade level would open up. I still kept hoping, praying that God would put me right where I needed to be. As I packed up all my own materials to take home, I still kept all my second grade and fourth grade things, just in case.

Then the day before school let out, my wish came true. Next year I get to move back to second grade, a grade I truly love teaching. And since I've taught both bilingual Pre-K classes for the last five years, I get to teach a great group of kids that I already taught two years ago, a group whose parents already know me, trust me, and fully support me. I can't wait!

Teaching Pre-K has been a valuable lesson and experience for me that I will always be grateful for. It gave me more time at home with my family the whole time Juan David has been home with us, and it also helped me to see just where, when, and how learning starts. I can see where the gaps are and know better how to address them and fill them in as they continue in school. And I also learned that kids will rise to your level of expectation. I will admit that I had very low expectations of my first class of four-year-olds just due to ignorance about what they were capable of achieving. I rose those expectations every single year, and every single year, my kids strove to meet whatever expectation I had. I also learned how important structure and routine are for any age level. Without a solid structure and routine, even our best lessons and teaching opportunities can fail to reach our students. 

I believe I will be a much better second grade teacher now than I was before I taught Pre-K, and I am so excited to have that chance again. 


Friday, June 1, 2018

Savoring May

The last time I wrote on this blog, I recapped all of our spring break adventures. Now here we are bringing May (and essentially an entire school year) to a close. Everybody and their brother will be out by the first of June, but we still have another week yet till we finish. I'm not complaining, though, because I had that extra week last August when I needed it so much more. 

May held so many great moments for our family that I'd never forgive myself for not taking the time to blog about each and every one of them--or at least post pics of those May highlights with a caption or two about them. 

This year's Teacher Appreciation Week truly filled my heart and left me feeling loved and appreciated in my classroom.  My kids brought me flowers every single day that week, along with tons of chocolates, classroom supplies, sweet handwritten notes, soaps, lotions, candles, and even toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste! But to top it all off this year, four of the moms showed up unannounced at my classroom door on the last day with cake and cupcakes to surprise me for my birthday. First time in 15 years of teaching here in Texas-I felt so dearly loved.

 My surprise birthday party!


 Teacher Appreciation Gifts





Juan got a job at Pine Cove Christian Camp this summer and had to be there by May 12th, so I picked him up at school on May 10th and had one little sliver of time to spend with both him and David together on my birthday (the 11th). We got a quick drink together at Starbucks before David had to be at work for his own first week on the job at our very favorite Chick Fil-A.

If I only got to see Juan for a day, I'm glad it was on my birthday! 

The next morning, Mike and I had a chance to go for a quick coffee date with Juan in the morning before we dropped him off with his roommate to ride with him down to Pine Cove for the entire summer. Not only will he not be home for three whole months, but we also can only communicate with him on his cell phone on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings while there are no campers. It makes communication a bit complicated, but I am so thankful for this opportunity for him to grow and mature. 
That little coffee date was extra special because we went to a coffee shop where one of his friends works, and she gave us all free coffee for my birthday. :)

That afternoon, on the 12th, Mike and I drove to Fort Worth to celebrate our sweet friend, Jenna's, wedding. Jenna was one of David's first babysitters here in Texas, and then she took care of our home and animals when we went to Colombia the first time. She holds a very special place in our hearts.

 As do her parents, Kim (below) and Doug (above). We met them on our first mission trip with Lake Pointe Church when we went to Piedras Negras in 2004. We've been like family ever since. On that trip, we all met Madai (below left), who then came to the states to live with them and study the following year. After that, she came to visit every single summer. I love her like a sister. 

 We all went to Madai's wedding in Mexico four years ago, and we sadly haven't seen each other since. Kim and Doug moved to Hawaii three years ago, and we haven't seen them since. So it was a real blessing to find ourselves all back together for Jenna's wedding. They will always be like family to me.


Just a few days later, David and I headed to the orthodontist to finally get his braces off!!!!



 Love that beautiful smile!



The office staff all came out and serenaded him to celebrate the big day! We could not have been any more satisfied with the orthodontist we chose for him, along with the amazingly friendly, upbeat staff that work there. 

And, of course, we went out for a coffee date to celebrate that beautiful smile. 

Exactly one week later, he passed his driving test and now is an officially licensed driver. 

Lots of big things happening for my sweet "little" boy. 

As if that's not enough to celebrate and cherish, I can't forget to add that I finally gained the courage to share my story, directly in relation to a message on prayer. I spoke at a women's event on May 8 at my church called Unveiled, so I spent quite a bit of time reliving all the emotions of the last 11 years in preparation for the event. 

Just two days before I was to share about losing Juan David and Laura, adopting Juan David, and then finally finding Laura again 9 years later, I got a sweet text from her wishing me a happy Mother's Day because they were celebrating Moms that day in Spain. Later that week, I got another message from her wishing me a happy birthday, and then just two days later, I told her it was Mother's Day in the states, and she wished me a happy Mother's Day again. 

After years of longing to know anything about her, those three sweet messages truly melted me heart. 

Yes, May was a good month.