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 22, 2017

Oh, that voice . . .

. . .  that sweet, sweet voice.


Today, seven years and one month later, I heard it again. 

This time while watching her eyes light up as she talked with her brother again for the first time in over five years. Seeing her again made Juan realize just how much of her life he's missed out on, how much she's grown up and passed all the little girl stages. She doesn't play with dolls and toys anymore. She watches all the same movies and plays the same games as he does. They both quickly showed each other all the mementos they've kept of one another over the years, never forgetting. 

They both have pictures of each other up in their rooms.

They both have memorabilia from Colombia in their rooms.

They both have a soccer ball plaque with their name on it that Julian made for them hanging in their rooms. 

They both acquired a new Spanish accent and vocabulary--hers' from Spain, his still Colombian with a little Mexican slang thrown in.

My heart flooded with joy seeing both of them so happy to see and talk to one another again. That biological connection is so, so important and fills an incredible void in their lives. They both seemed so sad to have to end the call so he could leave to go to work. He told her he loved her, and she said, "Me, too."

Her family enthusiastically embraced Juan as soon as they saw him on the video call, so happy for her to have this recent reconnection with both of her brothers. I felt such peace seeing her with the family God always chose for her, while seeing how excited they all were to meet her brother today. A truly priceless experience, a moment I will cherish forever. A moment that is likely to be the first of many, though scheduling may be a bit hard with a seven hour time difference. Hopefully they'll find a random moment to talk again when Julian can join in from Argentina on a 3 way call. I can hardly wait for that day to come.


Amidst all the joy and gratitude, though, I will admit I am still trying to process all the rest of the emotions that went through me as I listened to that sweet voice fill the room over the course of the following hour, within the very room that had once been perfectly prepared and ready for her to occupy. That voice I thought I'd never hear again. That voice I grieved hard over losing so many years ago. That voice I cherished for so long, hoping for the day it would fill my own home. Yet now those sweet giggles occupy another home, another room, and fill another family with absolute joy. They love her, and I got to see that today.

Grief from a failed adoption is a grief that never ends. You grieve just as if there's a death, though no one ever dies. You know the child is still out there, so true closure is hard to find.  No matter how I've seen God's plan turn out so beautifully. No matter how much time has passed. No matter how much I've healed and moved on, accepting my intended role in her life was never to be her mom. There will always be triggers that bring it all back. Like seeing friends watch chic-flicks with their daughters on a lazy day or taking them out for manicures and pedicures. Like reading a friend's blog today, saying they finally got the call about being approved to adopt their little girl from Colombia--the call I hoped for but never got. Or like hearing that sweet, sweet voice from the past come back to life again. 

When Juan introduced me as his mom, she looked in my eyes and said she remembered me. But to what extent, I don't know. We showed her pictures of her and David together, but she doesn't remember him at all. I don't know if she remembers our phone calls or even when we met in person. I have to really process how to play this new role in her life, her biological brother's mom who can't help but melt when I see her, remembering how dearly I loved her and fought for her. She is my son's sister, so she will always and forever be a part of my heart and life. But she is also the daughter I carried in my heart that never came home. 

I'm delighted and over-the-moon excited. I'm blessed, humbled, and more than grateful.  Yet there is a lingering sadness I can't deny. I loved her so much. I still do. I always will. 

This is a whole new territory in this walk through a failed adoption. I am sharing openly both to document this part of the journey and to relate to others on this same road (and because this introvert will never find adequate words to express it verbally). If you or someone you know has experienced a failed adoption, please encourage them to join our Facebook group (Failed Adoption Grief Support Group) where we just support, encourage, validate, pray for, ask questions, and give advice to others in our shoes, all at different stages. 


(If you are a new reader to this blog, here is our story that will fill in the gaps and explain why a simple skype call could bring about such a variety of emotions. I titled it That box up on the shelf. )


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nineteen

So, piggy-backing off of my last post comparing David and Juan at the age of fifteen, the age of nineteen also captures my heart deeply.

Julian, Juan's brother, took his first steps in life alone just two months shy of his nineteenth birthday. No mom. No dad. No family. No job. No place prearranged for him to go. Not enough money to pay rent for more than a month. No bed. No belongings, other than a few clothes, a backpack, some art supplies leftover from his last college class, an empty bed frame, a few sentimental items from his biological sister who'd since been adopted, and a small laptop computer we bought for him. Absolutely nothing else.

He lived in an orphanage for nearly ten  years. They provided for all of his needs, made sure he had a basic education, and even helped him take his education a bit further. Then the time arrived to cut the rope and send him out on his own. They'd controlled all of his income over the last few years working on weekends, so he left with a small bit of money that wouldn't last long. With so many children, they just can't keep them much past the age of eighteen.

My heart broke for that boy.

We made a connection for him to rent a room from a lady neither of us knew. We sent him money to buy a mattress. pay the first month or two of rent, and to buy groceries--for meals he had no idea how to make.

We lived in two different continents and only had contact via a phone, a computer, and the ability to add money to his bank account. He truly took those steps alone.

Talk about reality slapping you in the face. He walked a hard, lonely road. He's come a long way since then. Not always making the most wholesome choices in life, but at least he's learned how to stand on his own two feet.

Then I look at Juan David, his younger brother, now nineteen years old.

He's stubborn, defensive, and hard to teach, but after you get through the defensive cover, he listens. And he's teachable. And he learns.

We may have missed fifteen and a half years of teachable moments and now spend a lot of our time trying to unteach things he learned the wrong way, or just argue till we're blue in the face before he'll listen--but it's three and a half more years of some sort of family guidance than his brother had.

We get to teach him how to cook, how to track his GPA, how to manage a part-time job, how to drive responsibly, how to manage his money and be a good steward, how to budget, how to save for the future, how to love and care for a family, how to pursue a relationship with Christ, how to make wholesome decisions, how to manage time, how to fill out applications, how to apply for college, how to seek out career interests and opportunities, etc. Most of all, we get to model what it means to be part of a family and how a family always looks out for each other.

We may have missed out on so much of life together those first fifteen years, making a lot of current issues much more complicated than they should be. We may not have been able to raise him since childhood, spending time connecting with one another, reading books, building with legos, playing games, taking trips, going for walks, etc. I didn't get to hold him close when he was scared, kiss his boo-boos, protect him from danger, or just make his favorite snack in the middle of the day. I didn't get to teach him about God as a child, take him to church, or tell him I loved him a million times a day. But I get to teach him now, attend church with him now, and tell him I love him as often as I can. I get to be the one God chose to guide him toward his future during these very critical years of his life, keeping him from having to follow his brother's lonely footsteps.

I wish his brother never had to walk that hard road, and I don't know why God only spared one of them from it rather than both of them. I am grateful, though, for all the opportunities available to my son at nineteen years of age. I am thankful he's not somewhere all alone, scraping for money, just trying to survive and figure out life the hard way. When my mind starts to camp out on the difficulties and complications of adopting and raising an older child, I remember his older brother at his age and am grateful for the last few years we've had our son. I can only imagine what God has planned for him.

When comparing Juan and David at the age of fifteen, it looked like David received the blessing while Juan got the short end of the stick. When comparing Juan and his older brother, Julian, at the age of nineteen, it seems to me that Juan is certainly blessed. It's all a matter of perspective.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Fifteen

Fifteen can be quite an intense age.

I remember. I was fifteen and a half when my parents uprooted me from my beloved Pennsylvania and made me start a brand new life in Indiana. Talk about shock. I left my house, my familiar neighborhood, all my friends, my dreams, the church I grew up in, my high school, and even my two older brothers. I cried every night for at least a month or two after I moved.

As an adult, I know that change is good and only makes us stronger and more resilient. But as a fifteen-year-old, I didn't have enough life experience to understand that. I'd never felt such a life-changing loss before then, so my emotions seemed to magnify themselves. I started writing poetry, a tedious, careful process to find just the right words to express the inner world of turmoil inside me. Those poems brought me comfort as God stirred each one to a hopeful ending, one filled with purpose and welcome change. When I read those poems today, they take me right back to the moment, and I can almost feel those conflicting emotions all over again.

Roughly twenty years later, I brought home a scared fifteen-year-old boy from Colombia and immediately started to call him my son. I missed the first fifteen years of his life, and now I expected (hoped) he'd call me Mom. He'd moved around quite a bit over those first fifteen years of his life, but he'd never had to leave his country, his culture, his language, along with his friends who he considered family because he lived with them. Little by little, he'd already said goodbye to his entire biological family, leaving his older brother for last.

I remember my own intense emotions moving away from all I knew at the age of fifteen, but at least I had my mom and dad by my side. At least my new aquaintances spoke my language and I didn't have to move in with perfect strangers that didn't look or act (or sound or smell) anything like me. Talk about fear taking over and masking everything he said and did for the next year of his life. He didn't share a whole lot that first year, and I can only imagine the intensity of all the emotions he experienced that year of his life.

Now my youngest child, my biological son, is fifteen. And he, too, now experiences some pretty intense emotions. The littlest things can set him off, and he's nearly as sensitive as I was (on those hormonal days!). He went from a little boy to a young man over the last year or so, and our relationship changed drastically. He went from looking up to me and taking value in my advice to suddenly pushing me away and assuring me he's already taken this and that into consideration. He went from letting me care for him when he's sick to shutting the door and begging me to stay out and to stop babying him. A girlfriend slipped into his life over a year ago and took a part of his heart away from me. I have to carefully watch for those fleeting moments when he'll actually still cuddle up next to me or let me hug him, because they don't come naturally anymore.

It's so hard on this mama to watch him grow up so quickly, but at the same time, it's been neat to see how his attention has shifted from his mom to his dad. Rather than cuddling up to Mom to read a book at night, he stays up late on the couch watching movies and football with Dad. Rather than enjoying a morning ride to school with Mom, he gratefully slips quickly out the door each morning to ride with Dad. Rather than building legos or playing games with Mom, he'd rather hang out in the garage to help or learn something from Dad.

Our roles have completely reversed, and I didn't even see the beauty in it until I stopped having a pity party for myself over losing my baby. I am so thankful for the solid relationship David has with his dad and the amount of respect he has for him. As I have grown closer to Juan over the last three years, David has pulled away and grown closer to his dad, and it's a beautiful thing. Yesterday David went outside to help Mike work on Juan's car (something that Juan has absolutely no interest in or even can begin to understand--thus why he's grown closer to me and not Mike), I peeked out the door and captured this.




It was a good reminder to me that even though he's pushing Mom away at this age, it only means that he's pulling Dad in a bit closer.

Fifteen held huge life changes for me and for Juan. I wonder what it will hold for my "little" David. What a difference between my boys. Just when David is wanting to pull away and find himself, that was precisely the age we had to pull Juan in and begin the Mother/Father/Son relationship. Teaching one dependence on a mom and dad while letting the other start to stand more and more on his own. What an interesting job God has given us. I pray for wisdom all the time, hoping we're doing at least something right.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Away with the old

Little by little, I'm weeding out. A clothes basket here. A purse collection there. A cabinet. A closet. My problem is that when I get in the "decluttering mood", I want to declutter everything. Then I get overwhelmed, anxious, and cranky because it's just too much. So here's to focusing on one small area at a time and celebrating each accomplishment.

One thing I can't stand is a cluttered, messy classroom. It drives me insane. When you teach 44 four-year-olds every day and expect them to clean up for themselves after working in multiple learning centers, you've got to be 100% on top of organization so they know exactly where to put things.

I'm a bit frustrated this year because there's no real, clear focus, so it leaves me feeling scattered as to what and how to teach my littles in order to prepare them for kindergarten (and for life--because remember, everything you need to know, you learn in kindergarten). With that being said, I've had a hard time keeping things organized in a way that will lead to an efficient flow in the classroom. I personally want to take all like things out of several "kits" and put them all in one central location. One area for shapes. One area for science tools. One area for farm stuff, jungle stuff, etc. One area for blocks and another area for fine-motor skills activities, and yet another central area for books. I ran into a problem, though, when only one of the kits got audited, so I had to dig out every single item and book from that specific kit, count it, and put it all in one location as a kit, rather than with all the other "like" materials. To me, it's a waste of space and incredibly inefficient for teaching. Sorry, people, but I teach by concept, not by kit.

Then I've got the Dual Language program telling me how to set up and organize my classroom so I can teach according to their best practices, while the curriculum I'm told to use isn't at all in collaboration with the Dual Language program. Oh, and all those materials with the kit I now have separate barely coincide with the new curriculum or how I'm supposed to teach Dual Language. Ugh. It's frustrating.

By Friday, I'd had enough and I started tearing the classroom apart, trying to find more efficient ways to organize to create a better flow for both me and my kids. Except I ran out of time and left it all pretty much a mess. Thankfully the building was open to teachers yesterday and my son was available to help me out for an hour or so. He helped me tackle moving around some heavy items and reorganize a few things. But he just kept saying, "Wow. You have way too much stuff and no space!" Yep, welcome to my world, son. And I've been told I've got more boxes coming soon, filled with more stuff I have to keep organized by kit. Either I need a bigger room, a few kits to go out of adoption and disappear from my inventory, or I might lose my mind.

The stuff I know the kids really need isn't required for me to keep, while the stuff I will likely never use has to be kept, labeled, and accounted for year after year.

So, yesterday my dear son David and I started getting rid of a few things, and now I'm on a quest to empty out everything that I can possibly get rid of that isn't absolutely necessary for their development and preparation for kindergarten. Too much stuff just blocks the flow of class, gets in the way, and overwhelms everyone.

Hopefully next year the district will begin to bring all their new programs and curriculums together so at least we have a clearer focus. I can't control the curriculum, so for now, I'll focus my attention on my classroom. One small area at a time, taking time to celebrate each little accomplishment.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Welcome to the life of a soccer mom

So this week didn't quite go as planned. (Does it ever?) Welcome to the life of a teacher and a soccer mom!

We started out the week on Monday evening ending our Christmas break outside watching Juan's first soccer game this year. By evening, it had gotten a tad bit chilly after a beautiful day. We all left home the next morning for school in our normal Texas attire after spending the entire second half of our vacation with temps in the upper 60's and 70's.

We'd heard a cold front was coming through on Tuesday, but none of us expected it to hit until evening. Oops. David ended up playing his first soccer game after school in the freezing cold without even an undershirt. Then due to bus issues, he unexpectedly had to stay for the entire game after his, leaving him chilled to the bone by the time he got home around 8:00 that night. You can bet this mom made him a hot meal and had a warm electric blanket waiting for him!  (Yes, he is and always will be my baby boy.)

Wednesday we had an off day, but I left Thursday morning with tons of blankets in my car, along with an extra coat and scarf so I could watch David's first home game after school. We got a text shortly before 2:00 saying all soccer games had been cancelled within the district due to freezing temperatures. They bumped all the games to Friday and Saturday. However, Juan's tournament had already started at 1:00, so he still played. Mike had to change around his schedule in order to get David home after school since his game and practice were canceled.

Later that night, the district also canceled all soccer games for Friday, bumping more games into Saturday, thus canceling all of David's games for the freshman team in order to make room for the JV and Varsity teams to play double on Saturday. But since Juan's tournament had already started on Thursday, they found an indoor location for the tournament to continue, so he still played on Friday.

Friday afternoon, it snowed! And all the bridges turned to ice. Don't forget, we live in Texas, so this is big news. A normal 25 minute drive home turned into an hour and ten minutes. Thankfully, we all made it home safely, though.

Just in time for Juan to walk out to get the mail from the mail lady. She handed him the mail, and then she handed him a water bottle. Strange thing to come in the mail. It was a DBU water bottle addressed to Juan. I made a joke saying that was nice, but it would also be nice to know if he's been accepted or not. David said that the water bottle probably was his official acceptance. So I took the top off, and sure enough, we found this poster tucked inside with instructions to take a picture with it and post it on social media.

(Now to wait on the financial aid package to see if we can make this a doable option for him. Should arrive within a few days.)

This morning, he's sitting around waiting to head to the final game of his tournament that he got up at 7:00 to be at school by 8, only to find out that the game is now at 2:00 when the temps are above freezing, so he doesn't have to be there till noon. Meanwhile, David's bummed that he didn't get to play at all this weekend. 

What a crazy week. Glad I am learning to say no to overextending myself so I can be more flexible. Besides soccer craziness, we also dealt with a dog limping around, vet visits, one son with a migraine early in the week, internet outages at school at inopportune times, Mike's work schedule getting changed, etc. etc. 

The break was nice while it lasted. Now it's back to reality. Next week (so far) Juan has four soccer games, David has practice all week but no games, I have writer's group and two different trainings for school, youth activities start back up at church, and somehow either Mike or I have to make it to a midday meeting at David's school to sign papers regarding his fire ant allergy. We'll just have to wait and see how the week will progress! 

(Oh, and by the way, my students came back this week eager and excited, with no tears! That was definitely a nice surprise.)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Back to the game

Sigh. I guess it's time to close up shop from another greatly cherished and much needed Christmas break. I actually wrote a longer post this morning, but hesitated to publish it, perhaps because I said more than I should professionally say as a teacher. So I will try to condense it and sum it up in this late afternoon post instead.

I will miss sleeping in an extra hour or so each morning, but I'm thankful I still got up before 7 most days so my body doesn't go into total shock tomorrow morning. My boys might be a different story, though. They might be walking around like zombies until at least 9 or 10 o'clock. At least soccer practice kept them somewhat busy and off the couch these last two weeks.

Normally by now, after two full weeks off, I'm getting a little excited to see my little ones again at school, but I'm bracing myself this year for a lot of tears  this week. If I remember right, this is the group that cried and sobbed through the entire first two weeks of school. Some years they come back more alive and mature after Christmas break, but I don't know what to expect from this group. They've been quite a bit more taxing on me than other years, but here's to hoping we have a successful and enjoyable second semester.

I'm looking forward to allowing my word for 2017--FOCUS-- help me navigate through a bunch of scatteredness so I can find some direction and get all my kids moving on that track. To be completely honest, it is the scatteredness of my job this year that has most-likely given me such a need for FOCUS. New programs, new initiatives, new ideas, new curriculums, new books, new materials--they're all great. But not so much when none of them seem to connect or work together. I struggle to know where to put my attention from one day to the next, when all I really want to do is just teach my kids in the way that I know will prepare them adequately for kindergarten.  All the experimenting with new stuff, schedules, ideas, programs, curriculum, and plans just keeps them as unsettled and unfamiliar as it keeps me.

It feels like I'm playing a game, trying to figure out who it is I need to please today. Who's watching today so I can make sure I have the right hat on. All are good initiatives on their own and have been well-thought through, but they don't all work together, and that's the issue.

So, here we go, back to this game we call school. Here's to hoping I can find a focal area and get all my kids moving at least in that same direction.

Ha! Prayers, please.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Here we are again, beginning a new year. I always have high hopes and dreams at the beginning of every year, and I'm always amazed at all the surprises that each year held by the time we reach the last day of December.

I know my year will involve a lot of soccer, in addition to a graduation and hopefully the start of college for Juan. I hope to take Juan on a special trip this summer, either back to Colombia to see his best friend, to Argentina to see his brother, or to Spain to reunite with his sister. Who knows if any of those will happen or will even be financially possible, but it can't hurt to hope and dream that one of them will come to fruition.

I am hoping both boys will be able to attend camp this summer together (David's first year for high school camp, Juan's last), in addition to possibly a mission trip, but we'll just have to see.

My goal this year, which leads to my word for 2017, is to regain a clear FOCUS. I'm tired of living life so scattered. I have done quite a bit of evaluating and reflecting over the last year, trying to figure out how to avoid burnout and find more enjoyment in every day life. As I've stated in earlier posts, I'm "decluttering". Not so much in my house and my classroom (although I've done a bit of that, too), but moreso with all the activity that can tend to clutter my day, my mind, and my soul. Learning to listen to God's wisdom regarding what to say no to and what to say yes to.

I'm currently reading a book called Quiet, by Susan Cain, which is an insightful read over the differences between extroversion and introversion. I highly recommend it, though it's a long read. This quote spoke volumes to me and helped me to realize why I've struggled more to keep up with my own life this particular year:


I am an introvert. I love people, but only a few at a time. I am more relational than I am social, and teaching Pre-K and trying to build a platform as an author have both forced me into a role that I'm not comfortable in. It doesn't mean I can't handle them, it just means I need to invest more time to recharge and restore myself in quiet and solitude than I used to need. 

In order to find more clarity in life, I need to first FOCUS on who I am so I can take care of myself. I cannot healthily take care of my family, my students, my ministries, or even my readers until I focus on myself. It almost seems a bit selfish, but I get it now. 

I've written more on this blog in the last two weeks than I've written in probably the last six months, and it feels great! I love to write, and I am already finding ways to clear space on my calendar so I can take more time to write. With school starting in two days, these daily posts will obviously come to a screeching halt, but I hope to write at least once or twice a week throughout the rest of the semester.

Happy New Year, and may 2017 help you find more clarity and purpose for this life we are given each day. May you also find a clearer FOCUS so you don't miss all the little gifts and treasures God gives you along the way.