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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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Joy spelled with 9 letters


Each year I try to choose a word to define the year ahead, a word to guide me through the next twelve months. Last year (2016), I chose JOY. But I looked in all the wrong places for it and, sadly, I couldn't find it. 

At the end of the year, my mom bought me a devotional book for Christas by Sarah Young called Embracing Joy in His Presence (part of the Jesus Always books). Now that I'm coming to the end of the year-long devotional, I've learned the secret to finding that joy I so desired. 

It's only found by sitting at Jesus' feet with a heart of gratitude for all He's done, is doing, and will continue to do. 

It doesn't mean life is wonderfully joyous because I'm grateful. Some days life is just plain hard. It throws curveballs at you that you never saw coming and leave you speechless and heartbroken. Some days life can bore you, leaving you stuck in a rut with no excitement, meaning, or adventure. Other times it's terrifying, wondering which choice ahead of you will lead you in the right direction and what will happen if you make the wrong choice. Or God may be asking you to take up your mat and walk a road that you don't think you have the strength to handle. Or He's asking you to step out in faith to do something that logistically makes no sense at all. 

This year (2017) has been one of the most emotionally diverse years of my life so far, leading me to the highest of highs and to the lowest of lows. But through it all, I found so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude fills me with a joy I can't put words to. 

If you haven't noticed, I don't write much anymore. I only blog when I have something exciting to share or when there's something tugging on my heart that I'm wrestling to process and put into words. I've backed up a few steps, gone against all book marketing advice, withdrawn from a lot of activity, and pushed forward toward answers to things I'd been praying about for a very long time. This year changed me and helped me see and hear God like never before. For that, I am grateful, because that's where I found joy.

Today on Thanksgiving Day, I'm reflecting about the top things in life that changed me the most over the last year. 

  • My adopted son graduated from high school and started his first year of college at Dallas Baptist University. Less than fifteen years ago, Mike and I moved to Texas penniless, deep in debt, and with a very broken marriage. The fact that we adopted a child in the years that followed and actually have enough funds to get him through this first year at a private Christian university is beyond anything I ever could have imagined in those hopeless days. I wish I could say he's doing exceptionally well and thriving, but there's definitely some maturing that needs to take place first before we can see that happen. There's no better place to watch him experience this year of life and freedom, though, than exactly where he is. God has a great plan for him, and I pray that this year transforms him in ways he can't even imagine. For this, I am thankful for how God redeems and restores our broken lives. 

  • My dad is alive and well. No one ever wants to get that phonecall from their mom, hearing the words, "Your dad is in the hospital, and it doesn't look good." It was a day marked on the calendar to celebrate my son's graduation, and instead of preparing for his party with a cheery attitude, I sat in my room sobbing, wondering if I'd ever see my dad again. I waited too long to make a decision to head straight to St. Louis with my brother and sister-in-law, so I thought I'd missed my chance. Thanks to the advice and generosity of friends who attended the graduation party, I made it out on a late flight that night not only to see my dad again the next morning, but to watch him recover more quickly than any of us expected. The road ahead was long and difficult, leading him to retire from his ministry of almost 47 years. Now he's only weeks away from moving here to Texas to begin a new chapter of life surrounded by family. For this, I am reminded to be grateful for each day because each one is a gift. I watched other friends lose a spouse or parent over the last few months, but for some reason, my dad is still here, and God still has plans to use him on this earth. I look forward to having him and my mom close by after many years of living so far apart.

  • I chose to step away from teaching a summer Bible study and decided to travel to Guatemala on a mission trip with my son instead. That trip will follow me for the rest of my life. When I pick up my gratitude journal each morning that I bought in an open air market in Guatemala, I am reminded to be grateful for the clean floor I put my feet on, for the bathroom I used to bathe and shower in, for the stove I used to make my breakfast, and for the clean, fresh water I drank to take my daily medicine and vitamins. I am thankful for the food available for my cat and my dogs and for their health, even if we struggle with bouts of fleas every now and then. Suddenly, my house doesn't seem so small, the repairs don's seem so big, and the messes don't seem so bad. Instead I wake up thankful for a beautiful home, for warm blankets, clean clothes, and healthy food readily available. 

  • Finding Laura again, reuniting her with her brother, meeting her family, spending intimate time with her and her mom in her home, having her back in my own life, not just Juan's--all of the above fills me with more gratitude than I can even contain some days. I look at the pictures of our trip to Spain and catch myself breathless, realizing that all of that really did take place. The pictures we now have are absolutely priceless, treasures that I will never take for granted. God gave her back. He answered my prayer. When I asked Him for anything, even just a picture, to let us know something about her, that was the day He opened wide the door to help us to begin searching for her the right way. Having her in our lives brings me incredible joy, but the greatest joy came from knowing that God heard my prayer and answered me, very specifically, that very day. 

Life still carries struggles, disappointments, heartache, difficulty, exhaustion, stress, and fear each and every day. But in the midst of it, may I never forget what God has done in my life up until now. He's been real, He's been big, and He's always intimately involved. 

It's in the daily practice of gratitude that we find joy. Not just in November. Not just at Thanksgiving. But every single day. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Another milestone

Ten days after Juan David left teenagehood, David celebrated his sweet sixteen. I am still struggling to process this reality. He's not quite ready to get his driver's license yet, but within the next year, he will. And then so much of his dependency on us will change. I don't know that I'm ready for that day, but I know it will be here soon.

I miss my little boy. I love that we have a close relationship, still go for walks together, and talk on such a deep level. I am enjoying this time with just him at home again, and I want to cherish every day, every moment with him. I will not deny that our adoption story really rocked his world. He's been through a lot and had to sacrifice more than many of his peers, including his natural birth order. It wasn't easy for him, but it was God's plan for his life.

Yet it's opened his eyes to the world outside of himself, given him a depth of compassion for others and an understanding of the world that his peers just do not have. It has shaped him into the young man he is becoming. He's grown up knowing what really matters, and I'm so grateful for the way I can talk to him on such a mature level sometimes.

He's by no means a perfect child, but I sure do adore him. I am both loving and hating seeing him grow up. Not many kids can claim the firstborn and the youngest position in the family. He's my baby, and I love him to pieces.

Donuts in the morning

 Dinner and special cake at night

 With a special girl by his side. :)

 Homecoming pics from the weekend before his birthday

Today he's off on his second year of the high school retreat with church, though this is his first year to go without big brother around. Definitely the way he would prefer. And I totally respect that.

He's a busy boy these days!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Need a faith boost?

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of sitting in the 19th annual Roaring Lambs Hall of Fame Banquet as an honored guest (along with a guest of my choice) as they inducted three more well-known Christians into their Hall of Fame, while also launching their second book of Stories of Roaring Faith. My story, The Box on the Shelf, is featured as one of 35 different stories of God working through the faith of His people during unimaginably difficult circumstances to bring about endings we could not see, light we didn't expect to shine, strength we didn't know we had, open doors we thought were shut, guidance when we lacked direction, and peace in the midst of a storm.

I started reading my copy last week, and I am overwhelmed at how encouraged and uplifted each story has made me feel thus far. It is an amazing collection of testimonies of God's people living through the unimaginable and making it through to the other side, stories of steadfast faith that resulted in victory.

This is a book for any audience. For someone in the middle of a trial, feeling lost, alone, and helpless. It's a book for someone still searching, looking for a faith to cling to throughout this life. It's a book for a believer who just wants to renew their faith, be encouraged by other believers' stories, or for an unbeliever who may not know Christ personally yet. There is sure to be a story they can relate to in some way. Medical issues. Health issues. Cancer issues. Parenting issues. Marital issues. Divorce issues. Infedility issues. Grief issues. Adoption issues. Work issues. Drug issues. Home repair issues. And that's only the stories I've gotten through so far in the first third of the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants to be reminded that God is a constant, ever present help in every detail of our lives. And every life, every trial, every story has purpose and can be used to glorify God.

They truly are stories of roaring faith. 
Check it out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jesus Every Day

I've taught quite a few ladies' Bible study groups over the last seven years. I love getting to know so many women from all walks of life and being used by God to encourage them, mentor them, and guide them in their relationship with Christ. I also love walking around my church and seeing women from various services and various age groups, knowing that we've connected through Bible study.

I did a lot of intense Bible study on my own for years before ever walking into a group Bible study class at church, but no study changed my life like Stormie Omartian's study on the Power of a Praying Wife. Not only did those prayers transform my marriage after several very difficult years, but they showed me what I'd been missing all along in my relationship with Christ. Prayer. Intimate prayer, Scriptural prayer. They taught me how to pray Scripture instead of just giving God a list of requests. They taught me to pray about things I'd never even thought to pray about. My relationship with Christ grew more than ever once I finally learned to pray.

Prayer changes everything.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm when my friend/writing mentor from my writer's group, Mary DeMuth, asked many of us to join her launch group for her newest book, Jesus Every Day. Just like Stormie Omartian's books, it is a book of 365 prayers, all stemming from Scripture, giving you a Scripturally based prayer to start your day for an entire year. The Scriptures start in Genesis and are pulled from books of the entire Bible in order all the way to Revelation. They do not start on January 1, but rather from Day 1, so you can start on any day of the year and read them/pray them at your own pace.

Though the book doesn't come out until the first week of December (perfect for Christmas), I received a sampler of the first 30 days and can vouch that they are a great way to start my day, thanking God for how He worked long ago and how He is still working in my own life today. Pouring out my own insufficiencies and letting Him fill me each morning.

In all the studies I've taught, the ladies will tell me often that their biggest struggle spiritually is maintaining a healthy, consistent, vibrant prayer life. It's our nature to do, do, do, and go, go, go. It's not in our nature to sit still, embrace the quiet, and just pray--though our prayers can accomplish far more than our doing and going ever will.

If prayer is a struggle for you, if you want to learn how to pray through Scripture, or if you just want to enhance an already growing prayer time in your life, I encourage you to check out this book. Just click on the title below the picture. You can wait for its release or preorder today.

Monday, November 6, 2017

20 years ago

Twenty years ago today, I roamed the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina as a foreign exchange student in a study abroad program. At 20 years old, I set out to pursue a dream and to find myself, away from the comfort and stability of home. I sought to find my purpose, while getting the bilingual training I would need to fulfill that purpose.

That same day, another young woman close to my age gave birth to a beautiful little boy up on the northern tip of the same continent in Bogota, Colombia. She and I had nothing in common nor did we have any reason for our lives to intersect in any way. I never met her, but she changed my life that day in ways I never could have imagined. I am thankful for her and think of her often.

Ten and a half years later, God allowed a picture of that beautiful baby boy she'd given birth to to land in my inbox, and I couldn't get him off my mind. For reasons beyond his control, he was living in an orphanage, along with his older brother and younger sister (also pictured), hoping for a family to adopt both him and his sister together.

As soon as I saw their pictures on my computer, I fell in love with both of them. Yet after five years of ups and downs, only he came home to me.

I find myself quite emotional today as I celebrate his twenty years of life, the nine and a half years he's been part of my life and heart, the four and a half years that he's been my son.

Four years were not enough. Not enough to teach him, to nurture him, to love him, to attach to him, to bond with him, to model life for him, to prepare him for the big world out there.

Sending him off to college (even if he's less than an hour away) seems to have widened the gap that already existed between us because we didn't raise him the first 15 and a half years of his life. There are things, people, and experiences that affected him and molded him that I know nothing about. The bond I have with him doesn't even begin to compare to the bond I have with my biological child. Showing up for events at his school make it clearly obvious that our relationship with our son is not like the relationships that the other students have with their parents. Those parents had eighteen years to prepare them. College is a stepping stone toward their independence, preparing them further to pursue their dreams, find themselves, and seek after their purpose in life.

For my son, it was his break toward freedom, freedom he has longed for but isn't quite ready to handle. Trying to figure himself out without a background of consistent nurturing or modeling. A background that makes him see himself as more mature because of his experiences, though those of us in the adoption community know it's a background that left huge gaps in his emotional maturity that he will never see. That mask of arrogance is back up, hiding the lost little boy inside desperately seeking love and acceptance.

Four years were not enough to fill those holes. As his mom, I wish I could hold his hand and guide him through this step in life, knowing the gaps are there. But as a twenty year old, he's going to have to start falling and learning how to get back up on his own. I know those of you without adoption experience are reading this, telling me it's normal for his age. But those of you from the adoption community, especially those of you who have adopted older children, know that our kids' issues are so much more complex than the norm. Those holes in his life will follow him everywhere he goes, through every stage of his life. They will trigger memories they don't want to remember and emotions they don't know they are even feeling.

He's learning, and he's growing. And this is a step that has to take place in his life. I am thankful for the financial possibility this year for him to experience this stage of life on a Christian college campus with a very small teacher to student ratio. He has professors that he can talk to and are willing to work with him. He has a mentor to meet with. He attends a chapel service three times a week with special speakers that are touching his life. He can explore different churches with his friends and attend college age functions. He's free to make choices we didn't give him the opportunity to make at home, which also makes him responsible to face the consequences of those choices.

As a mom that fought and sacrificed for five years to bring home and raise a child only for the last four years of his "childhood", I miss him dearly today. I hurt to see that gap between us widen in order for him to become his own person and find his place in the world so quickly after adopting him.

As a mom that brought a fifteen year old "stranger" into her home just four short years ago, I feel relieved to let someone else guide him through this next stage of life, relieved to be able to put the focus back on my child still at home who longed for that "only-child" attention he grew up with to be given back to him.

As a mom who traveled the world with my son this summer and had the chance to reconnect him with his beloved sister, whom I also will always love dearly, I am grateful for that bonding experience that I will forever cherish.

As a mom that grieved losing her child, I am thankful for him and thankful to be able to celebrate this birthday with him tonight when we go to visit him and take him out for dinner.

Today is a day full of many mixed emotions for me.

No, four years just didn't seem like they were long enough. But without those four years, where would he be now? I guess from God's perspective, those four years were exactly enough. He has a purpose and a story that will all work together to make him the man God is molding him to be. We didn't go looking for him. God, for some reason, brought him to us and asked us to love him through the last four years, one fifth of his now twenty years of life.

Wishing a day full of blessings to my now 20 year old son. God took 20 year old North American me to live and study in South American to prepare me for my purpose in this world. Now he brought 20 year old South American Juan to live and study in North America to prepare him for his purpose.

I am honored that God chose me to be part of that preparation in your life, though I will always feel like it just wasn't long enough.

Missing him today. Looking forward to tonight. Glad he's not too far away.

Friday, November 3, 2017

From Grief to Joy (A continuation to the story, The Box on the Shelf)

El simkhat gili —God, My Exceeding Joy

Psalm 43:4—Then I will go to the altar of God, to God (El), my joy (Simchatch Gili) and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

I stared at the picture with such joy in my heart.

My husband had snapped a quick photograph from behind of me, my six-year-old son, and two young Colombian children overlooking a small pond of turtles. I treasured that picture as the first and only one taken of me and my three children together. I held it close as we passionately pursued adopting those two precious Colombian siblings shortly after they returned to Colombia. They had been in the United States for five weeks, living with a host family, giving them a chance to find a forever family of their own. I couldn’t wait to officially call them my son and my daughter.

A little over a year later, that picture haunted me.

After a long, tedious process to adopt them, everything fell apart. Rather than bringing them home and adding more family pictures to our photo album, I had to cease all communication with them and leave the relationship I’d built with both of them just hanging. I never got to say goodbye or explain why I stopped calling them every week.

Despite all of our preparations, no one prepared me to grieve a failed adoption.

Two and a half years after we met them, Viviana moved to Europe with her new adoptive family, while Juan David remained alone, back and forth between the orphanage and a local family committed to helping him. Another two and a half years passed after that until we finally succeeded to adopt Juan David and bring him home with us. Yet a hole remained in all of our hearts, wondering why God did not allow us to adopt them both together as planned. Why did He let us love his sister so dearly only to lose her, and why did Juan David have to live the rest of life wondering about her, since no one had heard a word from her since her adoption.

I’d asked God for something, anything, even just a simple picture to know how she’d grown and changed over the years, to know she was okay. I still prayed for her nearly every day, now eight years after I’d met her.

No words can describe the deep gratitude I felt when I looked down at my ipad to see an e-mail from their birth country with two photographs attached to it.

There she was, the little girl I thought I’d never see again. A picture and a letter for her older brother, my son, Juan David. But no return e-mail address to reply to. Only a slightly open door to send yet another e-mail back through her birth country, hoping they’d get it to her promptly.

God had very specifically answered my prayer. I quickly (and tearfully) forwarded the e-mail to Juan David, typing, “It’s a miracle!”

My son responded to the e-mail that very evening with a very short, simple letter, wondering how long it might take to reach his sister or if it would ever even get to her. How many people might read it in the meantime? How many channels would this one e-mail go through? How many levels had been set up to protect his sisters’ family’s privacy? We very nervously proceeded, joyful yet anxious about where this might take us.

A month or two crept by before another letter came through. Yet this one didn’t come from their birth country. It came straight from her. Communication without the middle man. I felt joy creep in my heart, seeing something miraculous take place through this piece of technology sitting on my lap. 

Yet my son still held back, knowing his sister’s new mother and family likely screened everything they might say to one another. Perhaps they just wanted to know about him, but they would not allow them to rebuild the relationship they once had before she moved away, now nearly six years ago.
How had she changed? Where might this lead? Did she still love him or even want a relationship with him? He maintained his distance, keeping that wall up around his heart, demanding that things proceed slowly. Rebuilding a relationship the healthy way could take a long time. It was all I could do to convince him to at least send a picture from his birthday.

He refused to send it, but he let me craft an e-mail from him and attach the picture of him sipping his favorite fruit juice, a fruit they grew up with in their native country.

Though he wanted to take his time, we quickly found that she wanted that contact with him more than we ever expected. That one picture led her to send another picture of herself, and soon they connected via social media. From there, the relationship progressed so quickly that we could barely keep up. Soon we helped her reconnect with yet another brother, also living on another continent, and they all three formed a social media group where they began to communicate daily, sometimes several times a day. They finally had that sibling bond with instant access to one another that they had all longed for since the day she moved away.

“Can we do a video call? I want to see you!” You could almost hear the longing in her voice as she typed the words. Within a few hours, we opened up the computer and talked with her face to face. They showed each other their rooms and the pictures they’d both kept of one another. They shared milestones and special moments that they’d missed in the other one’s life. They smiled and laughed constantly as they reconnected over the next hour.

Oh, to hear her voice fill my son’s room, a room once decorated and prepared for her. It melted my heart. I thought I’d never hear that sweet voice again.

Less than a year later, I stood in Madrid, Spain, with both my son and his sister by my side, overlooking a pond filled with hundreds of turtles.

Nine years after we’d taken that first picture of us all together. When I saw the turtles in the pond, I felt God gently tap my shoulder and whisper to me, “A turtle may seem slow, but I am not slow in keeping my promise.”

He didn’t ever let me claim her as my daughter, but He did not take her away from me forever, either. Two ponds of turtles on two different continents now stand as bookends to my story, reminding me of God’s faithfulness. Though as times it seems slow, He is always steadily working out His ultimate plan. Oh, how I’d missed that little girl over the last nine years.

Ten days later, I lay awake in that precious girl’s bedroom where I’d slept during our visit, as I waited those last few hours for my alarm clock to go off. I hadn’t slept a wink that night, nor did I want to. I felt God’s intimate love just wash all over me when I realized the gift of those last ten days spent with her, her mother, her aunt, and her grandparents. 

They called us family. They embraced us and treated us like honored guests at their table and in their home. Even me, the one who loved her first.

Images danced in my head that night as I replayed our trips to the park, our meals together every night, our walks around the city, along with the hugs, kisses, and all the times she held my hand as we walked down the street. She used one hand to hold mine, and the other to hold her mom’s.
I thanked God for the clear opportunity to share with her adoptive mother about my side of her daughter’s story. Not only do I get to continue loving and be loved by that sweet girl, I also gained a new friend, my partner in this task of raising two siblings on two different continents. We are two moms with more in common than we ever knew.

I welcomed the slow tick of those last few hours as I lay awake, basking in the presence of a God who loved me so intimately to give me such a priceless, intimate gift. I felt nothing but joy, and I most definitely did not want to sleep through a wink of it.

God fulfilled one my greatest longings over those ten days, and in doing so, I experienced Him in a new way as El simkhat gili, my exceeding joy. I will never look at a turtle the same again.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Stories of Roaring Faith

I am really looking forward to this book launching this coming weekend. Our adoption story is one of the stories they selected to feature in this book, among many other stories of God's faithfulness through hard circumstances. 

I originally wrote the story in two parts, but a third part remains untold apart from this blog. Stay tuned for Part 3, a story I wrote to add to my series on the Names of God, also the third (continuing) part to the story written in this book.