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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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Love God Greatly--Growing Through Prayer

Believe it or not, our fall Bible study is already open for registration.
https://www.lakepointe.org/women/biblestudies/ The study starts on September 12th! I considered not teaching during the year, but there was a study very close to my heart that I can't teach in the summer due to length. I can't teach in the spring due to high school soccer taking up a lot of my time, so either I teach it in the fall or I don't ever get to teach it.

Nope. That wasn't an option. I started this study on my own and just knew I had to teach it, despite the time challenge that I know it's going to be.

I've done studies on prayer before. But there's something really special about the Love God Greatly studies. Though the format is so simple and could be done in a short amount of time each day, I find that I spend MORE time on these studies than other ones that have a ton of reading and homework.

Why is that? Because you are the one doing the work, not someone else. There's no author doing all the background research and telling you what they discovered. You are left to do whatever amount of work and research you are willing to put into it, and you are left to make those discoveries on your own. The study is nothing but Scripture over a certain topic, and your job is to write the Scripture (in one or several translations), to make observations (looking carefully at the words and the context), to make a life application from what the verse is saying, and to turn the Scripture into a prayer (which is ultimately praying God's will because you are praying His Word).

I talked to one of the ladies on the last night of our last study, and she said that she actually gets so much more out of a study like this. There's something to be said about making a discovery on your own rather than just being led to it. It sticks, it's personal, it's exciting, and you remember it. (Note to self as a teacher: learning is much more meaninful when you are left to discover things on your own rather than just being taught.)

I took an Inductive Bible Study course at Grace College now over 20 years ago, so I dug all those tools back out and use many of them now in these studies. I had so much fun teaching other women how to use those tools for their own personal Bible study, and I look forward to digging in to a new study with yet a new group of women. It was a privilege to lead such a big group over the summer, but I truly am hoping for a smaller group this time so I can interact more with everyone.

If you've never heard of Love God Greatly, check out their website: www.lovegodgreatly.com. They almost always have a study going on on-line that you can join in with, you can join a group somewhere, or you can do or lead one on your own. They are available in 17 different languages, are downloadable for free if you choose, and have a weekly blog that coincides with each study. They even have a kids' version as a companion study for moms to do with their kids. When you work with Love God Greatly groups or materials, you're joining in with women from all over the world who are choosing to dig into the same Scriptures.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back to 2nd grade I go!

With the building under construction up until the very last minute, this has been the craziest start to a new school year. I finally got into my room at noon on Wednesday and actually had my room ready for my kids by Friday afternoon for our Porch Party. My teammates couldn't believe how quickly I got it all done and set up, but I had to point out that I'm a minimalist and keep things simple and efficient. I also had to point out that I didn't bring everything back from home yet--nor do I think I will.

 I cleared out a ton, but all of this still occupies his room. If I find I don't need it, I'm not taking it back to school. (Mostly books, organizers, and decorations). 

Here is the rest of my classroom, all ready for my sweet students to start their second grade year tomorrow morning.
 I was fortunate enough to "grab" that awesome cubby unit from a coworker that didn't see a need for it in her room. That will be a wonderful space saver for me without the expense. 

 I've since put a few more things up on the window blinds and organized all the shelves.
 My favorite part is the little reading center in the corner with a cute little flower lamp that I "won" as a white elephant gift two years ago.
My classroom theme is army, so I've got an army banner and a few army bears and accessories. But our Dual Language program has us color code everyting in red (for Spanish) and blue (for English), so I try not to add much of any other colors. Too much color is overstimulating, anyway, in my opinion.  

After five years in a Pre-K classroom overcrowded with way too many things, all this space just makes me feel so happy and free. 

 I've got a special place designated in the back for our class guinea pig(s), which I will be picking up tomorrow after spending the summer with a previous student. I've kinda missed those little critters and already packed some healthy snacks (veggies) for them!

Oh, and these pictures don't reflect a complete ceiling, which didn't get finished until about an hour or two before the kids showed up on Friday!

But as crazy and last minute as the construction left us this year, I must say that I had the best porch part ever in my teaching career. 21 out of 22 students came, half of them already brought all of their supplies, and the kids were so excited to see that they get another year with me (I had them three years ago in Pre-K). But not only the kids--the parents, too. They were just as excited, if not more. :) 

I absolutely love my new team, too, and we've done nothing but help and encourage each other over the last week. One is starting his second year at my school, but his 15th year in 2nd grade. One is in her second year of teaching and is moving from 5th to 2nd. The other one is brand new to our school and district, but she comes with experience teaching Pre-K, Kinder, 1st, and 2nd. And me--and though I've been away from 2nd grade for the last five years, I feel like I'm back "home" in my sweet spot.

I am truly looking forward to a great year ahead. I think I might even be able to sleep tonight, which I almost never do the night before school starts.

DBU Take Two

This has been such a crazy, busy week that these pics seem much older than just 8 days. 
Eight days ago, Juan came back from Pine Cove with his roommate, and I picked him up mid-morning near Fort Worth. 
 First things first, a MUCH needed haircut.

 We went home for him to shower before taking him out shopping for some new school clothes and other necessities for the year ahead at DBU. However, he started his laundry and fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon. That boy was truly exhausted. I managed to get all of his laundry done for him before we headed to church that evening.

 Sure was nice to have him back at church with me! In fact, we all were together for the service for the first time in a long time. I've missed that. 
 Afterward we ate dinner as a family for the second time all summer, along with some friends that came, too.
The next morning, we made it out shopping in record time, stocking him up on new clothes, shoes, apartment necessities, and a few groceries. I gave him a list of simple foods to have on hand to make simple meals, I gave him a budget, I made him use his calculator as he shopped to make sure he didn't go over, and I gave him cash to pay for it all, explaining how much he'll be able to spend on his food each month. He actually really enjoyed "adulting" for the morning. 

After that, we met my parents for lunch before heading home for a few hours for him to pack everything up again. 

Early that evening, we got him all moved in to his new apartment on the DBU campus that he will be sharing with four other guys, three of whom had been there for the last few weeks/months while he was at Pine Cove.  I didn't take pictures of the inside because, well, it was definitely an all guys apartment. Enough said.

 This beautiful little park/fitness trail is practically right in front of his apartment. 

 He's not at DBU by accident. God has a purpose for him there, and despite several setbacks his first year due to some immaturity issues, poor self-management skills, and a definite lack of English that became quite evident pretty quickly, (and a very humbling second semester trying to swim back to shore), he improved just enough to keep his funding for a second try this year. 

I saw him grow and mature in many ways during his summer at Pine Cove, so I am hoping that those skills and that maturity will help him start off much stronger this year. I suppose we'll have to just take things one semester at a time and not get ahead of ourselves in planning out his life. If I've learned anything since meeting him ten years ago, it's that his life is in God's hands, not mine, and I need to trust God with my son on a daily basis. 

I miss him around here. David and I have had a really sweet summer together, but there is always that feeling that someone is missing. And the sad reality is that I think he's going to be missing more often than not from here on out. 

Juan and I have a very close relationship, one that seems to get closer the more independent he becomes. My role has changed from parenting and modeling to now coaching, guiding, and encouraging. His love language is Words of Affirmation, so I am constantly looking for ways to praise him, encourage him, and lift him up--as well as looking for times to just say, "I'm proud of you, son." I'm learning that those words of affirmation go a long way with him. A lot further than any bit of nagging and reminding him of his shortcomings would go. 

I guess it's just like practicing gratitude, intentionally focusing on the good rather than dwelling on the negative. Makes a huge difference in all areas of life. 

So, as much as I miss my son, I'm so thankful for his summer experience working and serving at Pine Cove, I'm thankful for his first year at DBU, and I'm thankful for how God reopened the door for him to go back to DBU this semester. I used to fret over the fact that our four years with him were just not enough time to prepare him. But now I see that God said, "That's right. They weren't. But I've still got him in MY hands and have continued to surround him with just the right people and environments that he needs to continue growing into the man he's supposed to become."

Just like He told me after the adoption failed, "Trust Me with him. I love him even more than you do."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

One more day

One more day of summer. One more day to attempt to sleep in. One more day to soak up a quiet morning. One more day to hang out and chill with David, watching movies and playing games. One more day to visit my favorite coffee shop.

One more day.

To be honest, though, I wish I could soak up the silence of the morning tomorrow in my classroom. Every year I make it a point to head in to school a few days to a week before everyone else comes back because I can think so much better when it's quiet and I don't have to talk to a single soul. For this introvert, it's really the perfect way to start out a school year. I get most of my things organized, special copies made, posters put up, and desks/furniture arranged before all the other teachers fill the halls with their extroverted energy, enthusiasm, and NOISE.

Not that I don't enjoy seeing everyone again, catching up, and meeting the new teachers. Just not all at once, and definitely not when I need to focus and think clearly enough to start off a new year.

But, alas, I will not have that privilege of starting the year quietly. The building remains under construction and we're told we can't get into our classrooms until the last two days of staff development, still a week from Thursday.  Leaving two short days to get things set up, plus that Saturday and Sunday before school starts if we so choose. (Normally, I am adamant about NOT working over the weekend, but this year may be different.)

So, for now I'm trying to think backwards and get the things done now that I would normally do those last two days, like taking a good look at all the lessons I'll be teaching the first week, as well as how I will present all of the procedures and routines. The fact that I'm returning to a grade I taught for many years makes it much easier than if I were having to learn a whole new grade level, and the fact that I already know and have taught many of the students coming up into second grade takes that whole level of first-day-of-school stress away.

Since Juan was gone for the entire summer, I stored ALL of my classroom stuff (that I had to bring home due to the construction at school) in his room. I figured I'd have it all out and back to school by this week, just in time for him to come home this weekend to reoccupy his room. No such luck. So I spent today picking out the essential things that I'll need to take back to school at least for the first week (since we won't have much time) and moved all that into David's room (lol), clearing out enough space in Juan's room so he can sleep, unpack from a summer at Pine Cove, and repack for the next semester at DBU.

(In another few days, he'll be home for a whirlwind of a weekend, and then we'll take him straight to DBU to settle in a few days early before classes. This summer with him gone so long made me realize just how different our role in his life is now and how different his role is in our lives, too. Makes me super thankful for all of our travels together last summer and our big family vacation over Christmas. Not sure how many more of those opportunities we will see with him. Very bittersweet, bringing lots of mixed emotions.)

The following weekend will be spent scrambling to make sure everything is ready for the first day of school. Not the way I would have liked to start a new school year, but, it is what it is. I'm just glad I've had a restful and quiet summer to prepare for the whirlwind of the next two weekends.

And, just like the kids, I am definitely craving that sense of structure and routine again that the school year brings. It brings comfort and security and just makes you feel safe and productive.

One more day, and then I'm off to start my 16th year of teaching in the same school where I started my career. Back to my home away from home with a bunch of kids and families that I've grown to love more with each year. Classroom ready or not, I'm looking forward to a great year ahead.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A summer at home

This was by far one of the most uneventful summers I've had in a long while.

But after traveling the country and the world in 2017, I welcomed a quiet summer at home.

Mike got to go to Indiana for five days to celebrate his younger brother's 40th birthday and to help his parents get much further along on a big construction project at their home.

Juan has enjoyed spending a summer away from home with many other college students from Texas and other states while working hard at Pine Cove in Columbus, Texas. His weeks have been hard, but his weekends have been a lot of fun for him.

David got to go to camp in Winter Park, Colorado, he served on a mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley down by Mexico (in one of the hottest weeks of the year), he bought an old pick-up to work on with Mike as a fun project so he will have it to drive to school this year, and he's been working at Chick Fil-a several evenings each week.

 Winter Park, CO trip--JOURNEY HS CAMP
Church camp--Where deep spiritual transformation takes place and great friendships are born

Off to the Rio Grande Valley
Mission trips--Where students learn about putting others' needs before their own, while also building life-long friendships with those serving alongside them

 Out to the driveway

 Fun times working with Dad, learning new things, taking pride and ownership in his first vehicle

The only trip I took was an overnight stay near Pine Cove to visit with Juan, the only time our entire family was together. The rest of the summer, I just stayed home. And I loved it.

I cleaned parts of my home that I haven't touched in a long time. I organized closets, drawers, pantries, and purged a ton of stuff I just didn't need, either to the trash or to Goodwill. We repainted David's room from the deep purple he chose as a 12 year old to the patriotic colors he now loves as a 16 year old. I repainted my bathroom with the extra white paint from David's room and the gray paint from his trim. (I had aspirations of painting more of the house, but everyone else's schedules were a little too scattered for us to all work together on that, so those aspirations will wait for another opportunity.)

I re-organized my school files to get them ready to tackle second grade again--a year that I am truly looking forward to and am ready to jump back into very soon. I am eager to see the surprised look on the kids' faces when they see that I get to be their teacher for the second time now two years later, in a grade I feel much more confident in and prepared to teach than I ever did Pre-K. I see a very fun, rewarding year ahead.

I spent time with my parents, now that they're in town. Not as much as expected, but definitely more than if they were still living ten hours away. We dressed up like cows together so we could get free sandwiches at Chick Fil-a. I got to celebrate my dad's birthday with him, make a neat craft with my mom, and find some thrifty places to shop together.

Mike and I went on lots of dinner dates, and David and I watched a lot of movies at home and played tons of games together. Plus we watched the Fireworks twice!

I watched the World Cup very faithfully, right alongside of Laura, as we texted each other between two continents throughout the games, sharing tears together when Colombia lost their final match. I didn't get to visit her this year, but I felt like we still got to spend time together--something I will never take for granted.

I caught up on some long, overdue coffee dates with one of my dearest friends walking through a very similar stage of life with me right now. And we now have a new favorite coffee shop, thanks to Juan for introducing me to it right before he left for the summer.

I enjoyed Spain this year by watching pictures on Facebook from two of my friends who visited there this summer. I enjoyed Guatemala by following the Facebook and Instagram posts of the team that went, by supporting one of the students, and by praying for all of them. Watching their pictures and posts made me cherish my own memories in both places all the more. Thankful for the opportunities gifted to me a year ago.

And on Wednesday nights, I had the opportunity to lead five weeks of a women's Bible study at church called Fear and Anxiety. That alone brought me absolute joy, especially the first night. When you pray for months for God to bring just the right women to a study, and then they come pouring into the room on the first night from literally all over the metroplex--many of whom had absolutely no connection to our church, it's incredibly humbling. Women ranging from 12 years old to 80 years old. College girls craving the Word of God who googled nearby churches and just came, not even knowing we had a Bible study going on. A friend from my son's soccer team four years ago who just happened to want to get involved in a Bible study and saw a post on Facebook. A woman (a stranger) who heard me give my testimony at the Unveiled Event in May after seeing it advertised on Facebook, who left that night saying God brought her to speak directly to her through my message, and then she came back for a summer of Bible study. In May, a stranger, now, a dear friend. Another friend who unexpectedly moved back from Mexico for at least the summer and immediately joined the study. Several moms and daughters of all ages who wanted to do the study together, including my own mom. Many even invited friends and family members to come after the first night.

As of my last e-mail yesterday, we had 50 women on the roster, plus a name that was missing, along with a friend doing the study on her own because her schedule didn't allow her to come. Just like any summer Bible study, it's hard to compete with vacations, mission trips, holidays, and other summer activities and meetings. We never had all 50 women at once. Some signed up, couldn't make the first meeting, and never ended up coming. But they still got the e-mails and many even got the book. God will lead them through it on His own time. Others started out strong but fell behind, so they didn't make more than one or two sessions. I told them--go at your own pace. Let God guide you. A few others have dealt with sickness or family illness, while others had to work. We've ranged from 15-39 women on a given night, but I am praying for all 50 of them, and I know God will do something in each one of them through the study in His time.

Now for one last week to hang out with David, catch another cup of coffee/long conversation with a friend, finish up the last of our summer doctor/dental appointments, bring our Bible study to a close, perhaps visit with my parents, and continue to rest up before I head back to school in a little over a week.

All in all, for a summer spent at home, I found it quite rewarding and restful.

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.