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, December 30, 2012

Memorable events of 2012

2012 proved to be a very unpredictable year and is ending on the same note.  I remember looking back over 2011 a year ago with such awe and satisfaction over seeing all that God had done.  Just looking back over it and reflecting was a mountaintop experience in itself.

I can't say that I feel on top of the mountain as 2012 comes to a close.  Truthfully, I'm tired.  Emotionally,  spiritually, mentally, and psychologically exhausted is more like it. The last six months have been a walk through the valley (thus, why the title of my second book will likely be: From the Mountain, to the Valley, and Back AGAIN!) But the year truly held some amazing moments and events that were mountaintop experiences in themselves.

These are in no specific order of importance.  I am just writing them as they come to my mind.


  1. Publishing a book--My ultimate dream come true, and my first book was everything I had always imagined it would be--a book of poems with stories behind each one.  I haven't done much marketing or advertising, unfortunately, but I've been so blessed to hear others tell me how much our story touched their heart.
  2. Spending a day with Cindy Burden--My second book signing was at an adorable little Christian gift shop, where they also hosted Cindy Burden for the day.  I got to meet several customers and sign a few books, but I loved just sitting and chatting with Cindy while she "played with her clay" and created   a small masterpiece.  At the end of the day, I took home one of her sculptures and she took home my book.  
  3. Teaching both Experiencing God and Esther--Experiencing God prepared me for the things that were about to take place in my life, things that I would recognize immediately as what could only be done by God.  Esther was a huge reminder to me of God's intimate handiwork in our lives, also reminding me that the God that Esther and Mordecai served is the same God that I serve, with the same power and authority over the events in my life that He displayed over their lives.  
  4. Coming face to face with the two men who stood their ground to deny our adoption pursuit three years ago--I'm sure all the color left my face when our lawyer first introduced me to one of the men we'd be meeting with, clearly stating the name I suddenly remembered from years ago.  I had prayed my heart out for that man, by name, desperately pleading with God to change his mind and soften his heart toward us.  I never understood why God said no.  Now I see that He just said to wait, that three years later, He would indeed answer my prayer and soften that man's heart.
  5. Meeting our God-appointed lawyer for the first time--It is uncanny how this man's name was brought to us and how we actually connected with him.  There is no doubt in our minds that God appointed him to us, especially after finding out within minutes after finally meeting him that he shared our faith and attended the same church as the director of the Christian school we were working at.
  6. Working at El Camino Academy as a family--By making the decision to volunteer our time to this amazing school, our network of friends and family in Bogota immediately multiplied, also giving us a support system for when Mike got sick (with a horrible tooth infection).  
  7. Meeting Mercedes--Words still cannot describe the awe I felt in that moment when Julian introduced me to the very woman I had prayed for blessing over because of the foundation she laid in those children's lives.  I never imagined ever having the chance to meet her, and now she is not only a constant support and encouragement in my life and in Julian's, but she is also my link to their missing past.  In a city of seven million people, only God could have led us straight to her.
  8. Our first night with "Juan"--Honestly, I was scared.  Terrified.  I didn't know what we were getting ourselves into, reopening this door to the past.  We didn't get him until pretty late, then it was a long drive to the apartment, so we all headed to bed pretty quickly.  It was awkward, to say the least.  Until it was time to say goodnight.  I gave Julian a hug and told him I loved him, and then my eyes met with "Juan's".  He stood up and met me in the middle of the room, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me in return.  Three years of near silence, and then our moment came--one I had longed for for so long, one that I never expected to come.  I forgot that he'd been longing for that moment, too, for just as long.  
  9. Our first morning with "Juan"-- Another awkward morning, but one I will never forget.  Mike and David were upstairs sleeping, Julian had gone to work, and the two early-risers were left to the silence of the apartment.  "Juan" had found some Spanish DVD's that we brought and was watching them alone.  I was reading at the table and realized that I should be taking advantage of every moment I had with him (we didn't know yet if our case would be reopened), so I sat down beside him and watched  cartoons with him.  The silence of the last three years just hung in the air over us, neither one of us bringing up a bit of it.  After a few minutes, I just put my arm across his shoulder and told him again that I loved him, and he laid his head on my shoulder, telling me again in return just how much he still loved me.  I told him that I'd missed him, only for him to tell me how incredibly he had missed us.  Like Mary as she watched Jesus grow up, these were moments that I just tucked away in my heart, wanting to treasure them forever.  They were a gift.
  10. A weekend in Apulo, Colombia--After probably the most stressful and emotional week of the summer, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  But you know me and my excitement to travel to new places and see new things, I wasn't about to let the opportunity slip by me.  What a gift we would have missed out on!  Apulo turned out to be a small hidden paradise, tucked away between the mountains, surrounded by palm trees and orange trees, with absolutely beautiful weather.  No words can even come close to describing the beauty and serenity that we soaked up that weekend.  
  11. David's new soccer team--David played for the Titans since he was four years old, but now that he was the only remaining original player, it was time for the team to split.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he almost ended up without a team at all.  We finally got a phone call from a coach the very night before the first game, so David had to play in his first game without  knowing his coach or even his teammates.  He didn't have a uniform, but since their color was yellow, he wore his yellow Colombian uniform and blended right in.  We were so proud of his courage, knowing he was nervous, but he began scoring goals for this #1 team by his second game, and he impressed his new coaches and everyone on the team throughout the season.  He now looks forward to getting his trophy for playing on the #1 team of his division for the season.
  12. My son is a genius--We're looking into options for middle school next year (yikes) and I knew his ITBS (national achievement test) scores would be important for getting him into the Academy next year (even though he's already in the Gifted and Talented Program) rather than staying in the Math and Science program.  You should have seen that boy beam as he got into the car after school a few weeks ago and handed me his scores. In comparison with other fifth graders across the nation,  he scored in the 99th percentile in EVERY SINGLE AREA!  His grade level equivalency was compared to a 12th grade level for Language, an 11th grade level for Reading, and a 10th grade level for Math.  No wonder we find ourselves butting heads so much.  He's not your average fifth grader, and I need to remember not to underestimate his level to think.  We are so, so proud of our little guy.
So, there they are, twelve very memorable events of the year.  Now maybe I'll have to come up with 13 goals for 2013.  We'll see.....Thanks for reading through this long post.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Heroes of the faith

Up until now, I don't know that we, as Americans, had any clue as to what it meant to be persecuted for our faith.  Today when I read that the owners of Hobby Lobby are standing their ground on not providing the "abortion pill" to their employees, despite the fact that they are now accused of civil disobedience and face outrageously insane fines, I was so proud of the stand they are taking.  I'm sure they are only the first among many  that will have to make the same decision.  I'm also sure that their road ahead is going to be long and very, very difficult.  I've always known that we, as Christians, are called to follow the law completely UNLESS that very law violates God's law.  They are now my new heroes of the faith because they have stated just that--that as much as they want to be law-abiding citizens, this is an area where they just cannot do so without violating God.  I pray that God will bless them somehow for their faithfulness and obedience, despite what it is going to cost them.  I'm thankful that I can point my son's attention to them as heroes who will put God's laws first, no matter what the consequence.

My prayer is that Hobby Lobby will gain so much support that their sales will skyrocket.  I shared this with David today, and he immediately fetched his wallet with his Christmas money inside it, saying, "I'm going to Hobby Lobby".  He determined to spend every bit of it THERE, wanting Hobby Lobby to have 100% of his support.  I was so proud of him and his choice.  It wasn't even the item that he purchased that made him happy.  It was the fact that he was supporting this company for standing firm in their faith.  

I will rest in you - Jaci Velasquez

With  silence comes rest....
Exodus 33:14--My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

It never ceases to amaze me how God speaks so clearly to me through His Word each day, giving me just the right message that I need to hear.  Right when I'm talking about savoring silence rather than fretting through it, I turn the page in my Women of Faith Bible study to a chapter called, "Discovering the Rest of God".

The other day, I worked through a chapter called "God as Multiplier".  It had me think through times in my life when God took something small that I had to offer and multiplied it.  I remembered financial examples (like the money for our housing in Colombia both times actually going toward helping a missionary who actually lived in the apartment, or supporting Julian for a few months, which actually supported the missionary that he lived with.).  Then it went on to spiritual examples, and all I could really think of was teaching Bible study, because if each lady in the study is deeply affected and drawn closer to Christ, then her whole family is affected, along with all of those that she touches throughout her day.  However, God then gave me another example this very week.  For the third time now, someone read my book and told me they immediately went out and got The Power of a Praying Wife after reading it.  By writing and publishing my own story, now at least three other marriages and families are being changed.  My personal agenda for that book was for the next person grieving a failed adoption to not have to feel they grieved alone.  I knew that lonely place and didn't wish it on anyone.   Looks like God had more in mind on how to use that book than I did.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Silence

As much as this introvert craves a period of silence at least once each day, knowing how energizing it can actually be for me, I find myself conflicted by the silence that has loomed over our life this week.  We are so close to completing this adoption, yet so many questions still hang in the air with no answers.  I would have liked to have gotten answers over this week while I am off work and have time to make the necessary phone calls or write the necessary e-mails.  My mind is not cluttered with work, lesson plans, grading papers, attending meetings, conferencing with parents, etc.  Yet, for the same reason that I am off work, so are the people that I need to be in contact with, the people that I need to be making phone calls to or sending e-mails to.

I feel like God has been screaming at me to just take the mental break and enjoy the peace and solitude.  Read a book.  Watch a movie.  Take a walk. Play a game with my son.  Enjoy life as it is.  Savor it.  Life is just as it was always meant to be in this moment.  Some days I've done well with that, but I confess that other days I have not done so well.  I find myself continuing to fret over all the unknowns (what is God's plan for Julian, when will we go to Colombia, will David's school be affected, how much will it cost, will the grant be enough, will my students be okay, how much longer till these two documents come, who are we supposed to see to get this new report that they're asking for, etc., etc., etc.?????  Will this adoption ever become a reality?  If it does, are we even ready for all the change that will come with it?)  The list of questions goes on and on.  Taking a mental break is hard, but one that I obviously need.  I'm sure God knew what he was doing when he dumped all these unknowns onto us right at Christmas time, knowing that everyone being off of work would just mean silence.

Silence is good, though.  I am an introvert, and as much as I love to pour myself into other people, I desperately need moments of solitude to reenergize myself, and I desperately need time alone with God to let  Him fill me up, over and over again.  I'm slowly learning patience and trust and the ever-so-difficult act of letting go.  God has a plan, and when I need to know more, He'll fill me in.  I think He's proven to me time and time again that He can be trusted, no matter what.  I wish this process and paperwork were already behind us, but for some reason they're not--which could only mean that there's still more to be learning, still more reason to be trusting, and that it's just not time yet.  Life is just as it should be at this moment.  So for today, I'm going to try to savor this silence.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Today was just a perfect day.  Mike got up early with the dogs so I could sleep, and I actually slept till after seven o-clock! (Yes, this is a true miracle that I got to sleep past five.)  I woke up to him making a breakfast that we got to enjoy together before David even thought about waking up.

We worked together to make a nice little Christmas dinner, and then we headed out to see Parental Guidance, which just came out today.  My friend had given me three tickets to go to the Studio Movie Grill, so it worked out great and was a very enjoyable experience.  We'd never been there before, but we absolutely loved it.  Plus the movie was really, really great!  I highly recommend it.  I'm so glad David specifically requested that we go see it.

We woke up to a thunderstorm this morning and endured a pretty wet morning.  We later walked out of the movie theater to SNOW!  That's right, snow in Texas (and not just a little bit) on Christmas!  David was just out in his shorts yesterday, and today we came home scrambling for gloves. David and Mike  went for a long walk and threw some snow balls, then we took the dogs for an early evening walk in the snow, and then Mike and David had another snow ball fight.

Now we're sitting around the living room watching tv, playing with our new toys, and enjoying a fire in the fireplace.  I just checked my facebook and read a message that made my day even better yet.  It was from a friend who also studied in Argentina through Grace College, and she said that one of the gifts she opened this Christmas happened to be my book!  Just hearing that was a gift to me.  I told her to let me know when she's done reading it so I can fill her in on the latest.  I truly thought that writing that book was about healing and closure.  Little did I know it was just the beginning of finally seeing the pieces come together.

Our Quiet Little Christmas, 2012


Candy-cane pie. Mmmmmmmmm.
Trying out a new Wii game




Couldn't be more fitting!



Monday, December 24, 2012

Savoring.....

I read somewhere the other day that rather than count the days that are left until the next "big" event, I should be making every day count until then.  This will be David's last Christmas as an only child, so I wanted to make sure that it will count as a memorable one in his book.  I wanted to make sure it was special.  Sometimes I can be so laid back and simplistic that I forget to look at Christmas through his eyes.  I tried extra hard to really "listen" this year, finding out what things stick out to him and mean something to him about the season.  We won't be a little family for much longer, and as consumed as I have been lately with expanding/reuniting our family as soon as possible, for the moment, I just want to savor the moments we are spending together still as a little family.  

We followed our normal tradition for Christmas this year by attending the Christmas Eve service, stopping for pizza on the way home, then opening our presents.  Yep, it's not even Christmas yet, and every gift has been opened.  David did not get the one thing he asked for, but he got so many surprises that he ended up a very happy boy.  Right now he's working on a little model car while watching one of his favorite shows.  Mike loved the gift that David got for him, which is a big sign that says FORD SERVICES--CARS, TRUCKS, AND TRACTORS.  I loved the new warm, fuzzy socks that Mike gets me every year, and I think one of my favorite gifts was my new coffee mug that says Kloppmann Architects.  Now I can think of my brother every morning when I make my coffee. :)  After we opened our gifts, we enjoyed a Candy Cane pie and some sparkling cider.  It's been a nice evening.  Not that we didn't want to be around more family, but since my brother's still sick with pneumonia, it worked out for us to spend a quiet little Christmas Eve at home.  This adoption has consumed me in so many ways (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, financially)--the mental break from it until the holiday is over can do me a world of good.  

We plan to sleep in tomorrow morning, make a big breakfast, and then we're headed to a movie (another one of our traditions).  We'll come back and make a nice meal to enjoy for our Christmas dinner after that.  

Making it count.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

A new day

Today's a better day, though we're still quite confused and wondering what's coming next.  Colombia held a pretty big meeting with a lot of important people on Monday to discuss our case, which led to me getting an e-mail from the boys' social worker that left me feeling quite anxious.  I didn't know what to think of it, and it had me wondering if maybe they had changed their minds or if we were still in danger of not being formally approved.  I wrote to our attorney to find out what he knew, but I didn't get any response, and I just never had a chance to sit down and call him.  Then we got a letter from immigration with a new deadline to submit things in order for them to approve us to bring Julian, and we knew that there was no way to meet that deadline.  I called to check on the status of our two remaining documents, only to be told that they can't even give me a status on them for at least two to three more weeks.  It sure was one nerve-wracking week.

Thankfully, after a tear-filled morning yesterday and another screaming match with God, I got a response from the attorney, saying that the psychologist over our case in Colombia wanted me to call him.  So, while my students watched Polar Express during our pretend "field trip" to the North Pole yesterday, I slipped into a quiet room and spent nearly an hour on the phone with the psychologist.  (Let me remind you that phone calls in Spanish are just not my specialty or my favorite thing to do.  I don't even talk to Julian on the phone anymore).  What an interesting conversation that turned out to be, but one that made me thankful for a lawyer who could put me in touch with the people that mattered.  We are going to need to provide more documentation on a few matters that they had concerns about and wanted more clarity, but there were several times in the conversation that he made comments about understanding our thoughts and intents better after talking with me.  Due to a HUGE misunderstanding that I still don't quite understand, we are back on the fence about Julian.  Yet somehow, both Mike and I feel at total peace regarding him, even if he gets dropped from this equation. The psychologist was very positive about our relationship with "Juan", though, and is just trying to make sure all is in place for his adoption to be successful.   The people from the orphanage were there in that meeting on Monday, as well, and they all gave their support of the adoption, too.

I felt so much better after that phone call, and I was able to calm down and enjoy my kids and our trip to the North Pole for the rest of the day. (We were all in our pajamas for the whole day, so it was nice to just "lounge around".)  Then last night I had a long conversation with the lady that Julian lives with, and she assured me that he is fine where he is and that He is definitely in God's hands.  I needed to hear that, too.  I told her I didn't know what I'd do if I didn't have the assurance that Julian was surrounded by such a great Christian family and part of a church like hers.

David is starting to get excited.  He said that adopting "Juan" will be our Christmas present to him (to "Juan") since we can't send a gift right now.  I thought that was really sweet.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pressure's back on

It looks like that smooth ride to the finish line of this crazy adoption attempt isn't going to happen after all.  I guess I spoke too soon.  The pressure is definitely on as these last two documents are taking way too long and we're facing more deadlines.  I'm frustrated, discouraged, anxious, and just absolutely exhausted.  It's complicated and too hard to explain, so I'm not even going to try.  I wouldn't wish what we've gone through in this adoption process on anyone.  All I can say is this......I AM SO TIRED.  

Thankfully, despite all of my anxiety and frustration, God is still there and still in control.  The good news is that we've been re-awarded the grant that we'd gotten nearly four years ago and were not able to use.  This was a matching grant that a lot of our friends and family generously donated to, so it is reassuring to know that God always had plans for those funds.  



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Untouched but not unaffected

I didn't even know anything had happened yesterday.  It was a busy day, following a busy day, at school.  I barely even took time out to eat my lunch.  I found myself quietly grumbling about all responsibilities that go along with teaching, quietly grumbling about the obvious challenge that my class this year has been for me, quietly grumbling about how little time there was to actually accomplish all that needs to be accomplished each day, and I sadly forgot about the privilege it really is to carry such an awesome responsibility day in and day out.  The responsibility not only to educate, but to love and nurture 22 children that are not my own, to keep them safe each day, and to inspire them to always have a passion for learning, no matter what stage of life they are in.  I got so caught up in being frustrated because they couldn't sit still long enough to finish a test to the best of their ability that I forgot about the fact that there are 22 sets of parents who are putting their confidence in me every day, counting on me to always look out for their child's best interests, their child's safety, and their child's success.

I just happened to earn a "Get out of Jail Free" card yesterday (a leave-early pass), so I drove over to David's school to pick him up a little bit earlier than normal.  As I sat in the parking lot, I checked my facebook and was sadly reminded of what an honorable and vulnerable position we hold as teachers.  The news of the school shooting in Connecticut hit way too close to home for this teacher.  It broke my heart to imagine those children's last moments, especially knowing that the last person to touch their life was their teacher.  It makes me sick to think that they will never get to go back home for Christmas.  I'm sure most of their parents already had Christmas presents wrapped and under the tree for them, or at least hidden in a closet somewhere.  I just can't even fathom what those families are going through.

I look at the teachers who put their lives on the line for those kids, who somehow remained calm and were able to keep the children calm, reassuring them that it would be okay.  It made me wonder if I would have had the same courage that they did.  Would I have been able to stay calm in the face of such uncertain danger?  I really don't know, all I know is that I suddenly realized how lucky I am to be a teacher, what an honor it is to know so many parents put so much confidence in me to entrust their children to me each day.  I remembered what my real responsibilities are each day, besides all the paperwork and frustration over kids not being able to sit still long enough to take a test that's not developmentally appropriate for their age, anyway (that's another soapbox for another day).  I also suddenly felt so blessed to be sitting in the parking lot of my son's school, waiting for him to get out, knowing he would be coming out.

Today I can't seem to keep my eyes off the news.  It's one of those days where, though I was completely untouched by this incident, I was certainly not unaffected.  Life goes on, but sometimes, you just wish the world didn't keep turning.  My heart is broken for those families, those teachers that survived, and for that school.  I may have thought just twenty-four hours ago that all my silent grumbling was justified.  Today, I just feel blessed--to know my 22 little darlings will still be walking back into my room on Monday, fully confident that I am going to teach them, to inspire them, to genuinely care about them, and to help them never want to stop learning.  It is an honor and a privilege to carry such an awesome responsibility each and every day.  I needed to realize just how much I have to be grateful for, even if they can be a more challenging bunch than other classes have been in the past.

Friday, December 7, 2012

All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is for all of our paperwork to be in Colombia and out of our hands.  Just waiting on yet another fingerprint clearance and birth certificates.  After we get them and have them apostilled, WE WILL BE DONE......AGAIN.  It all still seems so unreal, almost as if I'm still wondering if this is actually for real.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A single day in time

I never knew how much could ride on a single day in time, but there has been so much riding on today's date that I feel like I've been in the race of my life for the last six months leading up to today. Let me back up and explain how this all started.......

As I made clear in my book, we understood and accepted that the journey God  led us on was always meant to lead us to Julian, our son, though we could never officially adopt him.  He was already past the age of being able to be adopted internationally, and we had already lost our chance with Colombia, anyway.  Once denied, always denied--that's just the way Colombia worked.  Our hearts, over time, learned to let go of the younger siblings, though we knew we'd always love them.  In February, however, I went through an intense period of questioning with God all over again when "Juan's" second adoption fell through and he found himself back in that same orphanage.  I still vividly remember the day I sat out on my back porch in late February or early March of this year, with tears streaming down my cheeks, and I boldly asked God to give him back to us.  Not long after that, Julian started begging us to somehow try again to adopt his brother.  Personally, all I wanted was to see the boy again and to be able to be in his life.  I had no desire to go through an international adoption process all over again.  However, in May of this year, God put a certain person on my mind to contact (someone I barely even knew), and when I did so, the whole world turned upside down again.

That person sent me a link to a specific part of the U.S. immigration website, saying that if he was reading it correctly, it looked like there was still a chance to adopt BOTH boys......if Colombia would agree to reopen our case to adopt "Juan".  So, I clicked on the link and read it, and then I got to the part that said an I800 form had to be filed for the sibling who was over 18 before November 30th, 2012.  No big deal, right?  In order to file the I800, you needed birth certificates for both boys to prove they were brothers, evidence that you were adopting the younger sibling, and an approved I800A form (which can take up to 90 days to be approved for).  Before you can apply for the I800A, you have to have a home study completed.  Our minds started spinning.  It was already May.  In  just six short months, we would need to find a lawyer in Colombia to help us see if our case could even be reopened, we'd need convince our agency to work with us again, we'd need to update our home study (which we didn't know would have to be completely redone by a new home study agency because our first one had closed), receive our I800A approval from immigration (which could take up to three of those six months), get both boys birth certificates, and file the I800 form with immigration for Julian.  Plus we would be in Colombia for one of those six months.  I remembered clearly how long the first process took us, so I never really believed this could be done.  I had a feeling God was up to something in order to give "Juan" back to us, just like I'd boldly asked, but I never believed it would be possible to win this race against time to adopt Julian, too.  However, without even having time to think it through and convince ourselves that it couldn't be done, God seemed to push this whole thing into action, anyway.

Needless to say, we had a lot of hurdles to jump.  NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, went as planned.  Absolutely everything took way longer than we hoped or expected, each time adding fuel to my belief that there was just no way to adopt Julian.  We'd never win this race against time.  Once we turned the page on the calendar to November,  I said, "God, there's just no way."  And God said, "Really?  Why don't you just sit back and watch, child."  So we did, and He showed up in ways we could never have fathomed over the last 29 days.  Here we are, at the end of our timeline, with Julian's I800 already filed, word from Colombia that we are "approvable", and so incredibly close to completing this adoption of what appears at this time to be BOTH boys. (I say incredibly close, but until it's complete, it still seems so very far away). Nothing is written in stone, yet, but I am finally letting it sink in that we will very likely be bringing both of them home.  Everything that we'd been told and believed was impossible (getting a second chance in Colombia, period, and also adopting a child over the age of 16), and it looks like God has made a way.

Once again, I stand in awe........

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Miracle

I begged God to give us an answer for Thanksgiving.  I didn't ask for a specific answer, I just asked for an answer so we can accept it and begin to move forward, either to finish this adoption or to drop it.  I woke up  an hour later than normal, checked my e-mail, and noticed that our attorney had written to me at 5:49 a.m.  I immediately checked it and called him right away to make sure I understood what it said.  Looks like God answered my prayer very specifically by giving us an affirmative answer on Thanksgiving Day.  Our psychological and social reports are considered "approvable" this time around, so now we proceed with the final steps to finally complete this adoption.  Tomorrow morning I am headed to the post office to file our petition for Julian's visa, which, God-willing, will stop the clock and freeze his status because it will be filed before his time ran out at the end of this month.  I haven't shared a lot of details about our process on my blog this time because, quite frankly, it all seemed like an impossible task.  However, just as time seemed to be running out this very month, God has seemed to bring it all together.  This has been such a backwards process, so complicated that I really didn't believe it could be done.  Now I sit back in awe as everything seems to be falling right into place, just in time.  I feel like I've had the letters STRESS written all across my face this month, and now they have been totally replaced by the letters RELIEF.  I can't even tell you how relieved I feel in this moment, despite the paperwork that still lies in front of us.  It sure will be a lot easier to put our minds to it to finish this up now that we have an answer, now that we know we've found favor in their eyes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The day the music died....or did it?

Three years ago today, November 20th, we received word that our case was officially closed.  It was the day that the music finally died.  Today I find myself a nervous wreck, waiting on an answer again. Our paperwork was finally presented yesterday, and I talked to my attorney this morning as soon as I found out.  He will be on top of it from here.   I guess they were wrong when they declared three years ago that there was nothing else that could be done.

I e-mailed the lady that Julian lives with to let her know how close we finally are to an answer, and she let me know that her entire church has already been praying.  What a humbling feeling to know that prayers aren't just going out on our side.

Julian has always told me that he felt his whole purpose in our lives was to keep us connected with his brother because he believes with all of his heart that his brother is meant to be with us.  I hope this all ends with him seeing God answer his prayers in a mighty way, giving not only his brother a family, but by keeping them together, as well.  No matter what, God will get the glory--I'm just a nervous wreck waiting to find out how.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My current thoughts

A good friend of mine gave birth to her second child today, which was actually a few weeks earlier than her due date.  That's twice now that she hasn't even had to carry a child for a full nine-month pregnancy.  I found myself a little jealous, to be honest.  I feel like I've been pregnant for four years now, and I'm still wondering if a miscarriage is around the corner.  Just saying....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Here goes.....

FINALLY, despite unexpected delay after unexpected delay, our documents have been translated and will be presented to Colombia.  I told Julian, and he said, "Well, now we just wait and see what God has planned."  I'm so thankful to have the spiritual connection with him that I do.  Whatever the outcome this time, he has been involved in every single step and has witnessed just how much we've done and how hard we've fought for him and his brother.  No matter what, they know they are loved and were worth fighting for.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One step closer

We don't have all the answers we need yet to know if we're ever going to be bringing the boys home, but today we took a giant step closer to the possibility of it actually happening.  After getting our fingerprints done early last week, our agency called the Immigration offices to explain our time crunch and to see if things might be able to be pushed forward.  Getting an approval for this particular form can take up to 90 days, so we knew we were attempting an impossibilty when we filed it with only 45 days to make it happen.  As of Monday morning, we still hadn't even been assigned an officer to our case.  Between two phonecalls and two e-mails since Monday, we very surprisingly received our immigration approval via the phone and an e-mail today. There's still more to be gathered and submitted within the next 23 days before the month runs out, but getting that approval today was a huge miracle that we really needed to happen.  I'm still not assuming that this adoption is definitely going to happen, but God really showed His fingerprints all over it today--for that, we are grateful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

All This Time [Lyrics] - Britt Nicole

Feliz cumpleanos

Wishing a very special boy a very happy birthday today.  Three years ago this very day I thought I heard his voice for the last time.  I thought it was final when I said goodbye, told him I loved him, and hung up the phone.  I thought it was over, and all I could wonder was "why?".  Why did we ever have to meet, just so we could dream and hope and love, and then watch it all come crashing down?  God always knew, though, that our story wasn't even close to being over.  For reasons I couldn't understand, God just would not let me let that child go.  I never imagined that we'd be here, three years later, fighting for that boy all over again.  I still don't know what the future holds, nor have I even allowed myself to assume a certain outcome.  All I know is that God is working out all things for good and that He still has a purpose for that precious boy in our lives. I treasure those four days we had together in the summer because they were a gift that we didn't even know was coming.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Progressing

A lot went on this week. Our paperwork finally made it to Colombia  and is currently being translated. (I'm not even going to begin to explain what held it up three extra weeks......I'm just thankful that it's finally there.) Our attorney has already gone ahead of us and talked with the people over our case to let them know it will be presented to them very soon.  He is eager to stay on top of things, to keep it moving, and to represent us.  What a nice feeling it is to know that he already knows us.  We're definitely not just a piece of paper this time around--to anyone involved.  We also got our fingerprint appointment for immigration scheduled for November 20th, and we were able to sidestep the appointment and get it done three weeks early.  We walked in on Wednesday afternoon to see if they would take us on a walk-in, and even though the lady very firmly said that they do NOT take walk-ins and that they ONLY reschedule appointments by mail, she made an exception to take us that afternoon because they weren't busy at all.  (Maybe she was being nice because it was Mike's birthday. :))  Every day this month brings us one day closer to the answers we have been waiting for over the last four months (or more like the last four years).

Isaiah 30:18
Yet the Lord LONGS to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who WAIT (or long) for Him.
(I learned today that the words long and wait here are actually the same Hebrew word.  Isn't is nice to know that as much as I long for an answer here, God is longing to give it to me?)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More than we could ever have imagined

A week after we got home from Colombia, we got an e-mail from our divinely appointed lawyer stating that our adoption case was being reopened and that they would consider giving us the second chance that we were asking for.  This was a miracle in itself, since they flat out told us that nothing of the sort had ever been done before.  Within days, our lives turned upside down all over again as we re-immersed ourselves in all of the paperwork, phonecalls, appointments, and financial agreements that go along with an international adoption process.

As confident as I felt, knowing that only God could have orchestrated this turn of events, not a bit of it has been easy.  I detested almost every step we had to take and cringed with every check we had to write.  I can't tell you how many times over the last four months that we reached another roadblock and I just threw my hands up in the air, saying, "God, I quit!  This is just too hard, too complicated, too frustrating, too costly--in so many ways. I just don't want to do this any more!!!!!"  Then someone would always come up beside me and show me that it wasn't time to give up hope just yet.  Anything can happen with the time we have left.  Somehow I always found the resolve, the strength, the determination, and the resources to keep pushing ahead.

So, here we are now, almost three years to the date of watching our dreams come crashing down, and once again we wait for answers.  Just why DID God give us the inspiration and just the right connections to pursue this case again?  Why DID He open this door again?  Within the next thirty days or so, we should finally have the answers we are seeking.  Will "Juan" and Julian ever become our legal children, or does God have something completely different in mind for the five of us that we just haven't seen yet?

 I, personally, can't even say just what it is that I'm hoping for.  Of course, I want us to be approved this time around.  What a humiliation to go through this all again and receive the same response.  Yet I can't say I'm hoping to bring one or both boys home, either.  We are fully aware of all of the very real challenges that will come with that. I can't imagine life without  them, though, and fortunately, this time I know that I will not lose either of them, whether we can adopt them or not.

My prayers are very different than they were three years ago.  I'm not praying daily for this to all go through and work out.  My daily prayer is only that God will do more through this situation than we could ever ask or imagine.  If it means bringing one or both of them home, then so be it.  If it involves just one of them or neither of them, then so be it.

Just a few days ago while I was out on my porch, God and I had a little heart to heart, and basically I found myself rehearsing all the ways that He has already done exactly what I've prayed for-- by giving us more than we ever could have asked for.  Right after coming back home after our first trip to Colombia, I was already overwhelmed with having found the other end of the phone line through which all of my conversations with "Juan" had taken place two years prior.  I actually stood in the same place where he stood for all of those phone calls.

As if that wasn't enough, God later connected me with the very person that stood beside him the day they told him we weren't coming for him.  Through her, God began revealing details of those days that I always wanted to know. I wondered why  I even needed to know, but I thanked God for filling in those gaps.  Then this summer, as we sat around the table in Mercedes' home less than 48 hours before coming back home, she filled us in on sweet details about each of the boys when they were children.  I will never forget the thoughts that ran through my head in those moments, realizing that God was still continuing to reveal their story to us.  All in his perfect timing, just as it was always meant to be.

I don't know what to expect or even hope for this coming month as we begin to finally receive answers, first from Colombia, then from immigration, then regarding the grants that we applied for.  All I know is that God is going to continue to use this story and this situation in greater ways than we ever could ask or imagine.  I know He will because He already has.  His track record doesn't change.

 I hope that in the midst of whatever you find yourself facing today, you will see that God has done the same for you.  If you delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart.  My desire is for everyone who has followed our journey to look at our situation and say, "That could only be God" (quote from session six in our Esther study by Beth Moore).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Sustainer

My emotions are all over the place these days.  I find myself on the brink of tears one moment to being  completely confident in Christ the next.  I find myself at total peace one day to being utterly confused and bewildered the next.  God's fingerprints and provision are so unmistakenly all over our lives right now (and over our boys' lives in Colombia), yet it is so bewildering to keep running into delay after delay in this pursuit to adopt them.  I want answers and direction, and God says, "It's just not time yet.  Keep waiting on Me and keep clinging to My word."

 It amazes me to see how He is using this study on Esther to speak directly to me week after week.  One week I found myself admitting to how terrified I am--terrified that this might not go through again and yet terrified that it just might!  That week in Bible study, the whole session was about facing our fears (when Esther had to face her fear of approaching the King even though she was not summoned, which could very likely be her death sentence).  So, I start to get past the whole fear thing, and then I find myself agonizing through another unexpected wait.  Then I preview the group session for Bible study, and what do you think it was all about?  Waiting.  Waiting on God's timing, accepting that when He puts a hold on something that we think should be moving along, He is definitely up to something, bringing all the people and events all together for just the right moment.  (Esther fasting for three days before approaching the King, then when she's given permission to see him and is offered up to half the kingdom, she still waited two more days to make her actual request.)  Hmmmmm.  The quote that got to me was about accepting that "the meantime is God-time".  If we're waiting, it means that He's still orchestrating it all.  (After all the divine events we watched God orchestrate in Colombia both times we were there, you'd think I'd get that by now.)

I've definitely had a lot on my mind lately, though, not really sure which direction our future is going to go in just a few  short months from now.  I've also really struggled with all of the sacrifices God has asked us to make as a family, more than just financially.  The other day I walked my class to lunch, then I went in my classroom, shut my door, and just spent some time with God.  I was having one of those "woe is me" kind of days.  As I began pouring out my heart, I found tears just streaming down my cheeks as I heard myself asking, "Haven't we already sacrificed enough, God?  Financially? Emotionally?  Why do you just keep asking for more from me?"

Then, just like usual whenever I reach those points of helplessness, God sent me a boost maybe an hour later via an e-mail, reminding me that He's still right there.  We'd applied for a $2,000 grant to help with some of our adoption fees.  We were told that the maximum amount of this particular grant was $2,000, but this e-mail said that we'd been awarded $3,000!  My heart just skipped a beat as I read the e-mail, even though I barely had time to process it because I had about five kids standing around me, waiting for my attention. I also can't neglect to mention that I had a friend downsize her closet recently, and she gave me pretty much a whole new wardrobe.  We have another friend who has helped out on several occasions with extra cash, this time which helped pay for teacher fees I still owed at school, David's cafeteria lunches for a month, and enough to be able to take David to his school carnival this week.  People have picked up the tab for us at restaurants so we didn't have to miss out on the fellowship with our church family.   Our translation fees were covered by someone who was inspired by our book.  I even found money on the ground one day in a wide open parking lot at the grocery store.  Yes, God has asked us to sacrifice a lot lately, but He has also taken care of us.  As much as I hate to be on the needy side rather than the giving side, it is humbling to see just who and what God has used to continue to meet our needs.

He may have asked us to walk through a valley again, but His fingerprints are everywhere, showing us that we are not walking alone and that He alone is our Sustainer.  I hope you see His fingerprints all over your own life, too.  What an intimate God we have.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Waiting

Okay.  I think I get it now.  I get why I wasn't "allowed" to teach the Esther study last semester.  It wasn't time.  Whether I thought it was just the right time or not, it wasn't.  If I thought last week's session spoke directly to me, this one pretty much had my name written all over it.  Last week was all about facing our fears, knowing that God is with us, no matter what.  Even if the thing you fear the most actually happens.  This week is all about waiting.

The main quote/concept I took away from the session is this:  When we're always waiting on a specific event or person or action, we will always lose heart.  But when we're waiting on God, we will mount up with wings like eagles.  We will run and not grow weary.  We will walk and not faint.  When we're waiting on God, our strength WILL be RENEWED!

I'd like to think that God did not reopen our adoption case only for it to close again.  I'd like to think that God would not have reunited us with "Juan" and given all of us a new hope only for it to come crashing down again.  I'd like to lay claim to faith that we will be able to go to him soon and that we will be able to finally bring him home as our adoptive son.  I'd like to think that all is going to go well.  But all I know and am laying claim to is that God is still writing our story and that He is orchestrating something greater than our minds can fathom or understand.

Therefore, my hope is in HIM, in the confidence I have in His purpose for all involved.  Waiting on a specific result will only drive me a little more insane each day as I wait for it.  Waiting on HIM frees me to be confident that He is continuing to work out His purposes in me, Mike, David, and both boys.  I hate waiting, but maybe that's because I've been waiting on the wrong thing all this time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cause and effect

Teaching cause and effect is one of my favorite skills to teach to my second graders, and they always seem to get into all my little cause/effect charts that have to do with study skills, good or bad behavior, etc. (I really like the most recent one that they helped me make--IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, THEN THE TEACHER IS NOT HAPPY.  IF EVERYONE DOES FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, THE TEACHER IS HAPPY. (Making the teacher happy is all that really matters, right? LOL. )

Learning cause and effect isn't always as easy or fun when you've had to learn the hard way.  However, I just got the best cause/effect statement ever from one of my favorite Bible study teachers, Beth Moore, while previewing this week's session.

IF ___________, THEN......My God will be there.  

No matter what.  Every time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I'm hanging on to this....

You know, I guess I just thought/hoped that it would be easier and prettier this time around.  Not so much.  We haven't had any real issues or problems, everything just seems to be taking forever.  Every little aspect just takes T.I.M.E. (and way more than necessary, if you ask me).

After a grueling three months of repeating week after week, "Please hurry!  We're running out of time!", our home study is finally complete and in the mail, headed to our home.  Once again, according to the state of Texas, we are qualified to adopt our precious "Juan" and his nineteen year old brother, if God wills it that way.  Now we'll see what Colombia will have to say this time.....and then we'll see if God decides to speed things through immigration.  Talk about living life completely up in the air!  It's nerve-wracking, to say the least.

This paragraph from our Esther study really hit home:

"I don't know exactly how God perfects plans that seem so bleak to us in process, but these two things I know.  He never takes His eyes off of us or off the clock ticking over us....the same eye that's on the sparrow is on the wristwatch."  




Sunday, September 30, 2012

What we never saw coming......

It was October 27th, 2007.  What a year it had already been.  We lived through a surprise, though short lived, pregnancy, we grieved a miscarriage, we bought our first home, and I experienced God do a miracle in   my heart as He met with me every morning on my new front porch that first summer in my house. I found an intimacy with Him that I never knew I could have as I began to cultivate a life of authentic prayer for the first time in my life.  I also began to pray a simple prayer that summer, the prayer of Jabez, asking God to expand my borders, to give me more territory, to use me in greater ways than He ever had before.

When we registered to attend the annual Adoption Conference at our church that October, we couldn't have even imagined the journey that it would set us on or how it would change our lives for eternity. What we did imagine was bringing home a little girl from El Salvador and raising her here as our own adoptive child. Oh, how God's planned differed from our original hope and desire.

I will never forget that day.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  The first chapter of my book begins right in the middle of that Adoption Conference, over the lunch hour, where we sat with another couple and shared our stories of why we were there.  We could hardly wait to get started with an adoption process, so confident over this call that God had put into our lives. They still agonized over the decision to adopt, hoping that God would miraculously grant them a biological child after all of their struggles with infertility.  God set us both on a journey that day, though, one that neither one of us ever saw coming.

The following year, Mike and I found ourselves back at the next conference as volunteers, proudly showing off pictures of the two Colombian children that we were in the process of adopting.  We were overjoyed at how God had brought them into our lives, and we couldn't wait until the following year where we could "show them off" in person.  We sadly didn't make it to that conference, though, because we found ourselves grieving their loss, trying to understand how we could have been so misled, so misguided, so "off the mark".  They weren't coming home to us.  We felt so cheated, so lost, so abandoned by God.  We felt like He let us down.......

Two years later, I thought I finally got it.  Right around the time of the annual conference, I'd just finished writing our story, our journey to Julian.  I understood that our journey was not an adoption journey, after all, but a journey to a child who could never come home to us.  I saw that our purpose would live itself out away from home, rather than within the walls of our home.  I look back over all that we learned and experienced, as well as over all the people we've had an opportunity to meet and minister to, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Yesterday, after missing the last three consecutive annual conferences because we felt like our purpose no longer connected with adoption, we jumped back into it as both volunteers and attendees.  Adoption may still be in our near future, but because of the experiences we've had, our hearts are drawn more toward orphan care and advocacy than anything else. This particular conference seemed to have an equal focus on both adoption and orphan care.  We attended two sessions in the morning called Orphan Care 101 and 201.   The President of Lost Orphans International and the Vice President of Children's Hope Chest led the sessions (two very fun guys, by the way).  Both sessions focused on the same thing--becoming family to those children that you may never get to bring home.  

Here we were, five years after that first conference, with the amazing opportunity to share our story.  Since that very first conference we attended, we've been eternally touched and changed by three beautiful Colombian orphans, two of whom now call me Mom.  We traveled to Colombia and back twice, visited the orphanage they were raised in several times, became part of an amazing network of believers and missionaries in the capital city of Colombia, met so many people that we never would have had the opportunity to meet, wrote and published our story so we can continue to share it with others, got to tell the continuing story to the two men who determined that we were not mentally stable enough to be adoptive parents in the first place, and now we face a new possibility and hope that at least one, if not both, of the boys might actually come home to us someday.

Were we cheated?  Did God let us down?  Not at all. What we once thought was so completely "off the mark" couldn't have been any closer to the mark God meant for us to be on.  He answered that simple prayer I prayed back in the summer of 2007.  He enlarged our territory, gave us a huge sphere of influence, and continues to expand our borders, using us in ways we never could have imagined.   I wrote to the President of Lost Orphans International when we got home to thank him for his presentation on something so close to my heart.  He sent me this note back this morning.....

You guys are living out what I was hoping to get across to the groups. Thank you for being 

faithful to God's calling into your life.

So, what about that couple that we sat with over the lunch hour at that very first conference we attended together five years ago? I actually found them at yesterday's conference.  They led the session called Infertility and Adoption.  They have an adopted daughter and they lead an Infertility support group at the church.  She told me right before she left that though she was a mess back then, God used her struggles through infertility to not only lead them to their daughter, but to use it as a way for her to minister to others.  She said, "I never saw that coming!"  We never do, but God always does.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life just gets busy sometimes

I apologize for the long break from blogging.  Life just gets a bit busy sometimes.  I've been in one of those "take it one day at a time" kind of modes.  Between starting up our weekly Bible studies, we also had the Bible study teacher dinner one evening, a Just Desserts event for women at the church another evening, a Meet the Teacher event at both David's school and my school, that took up two evenings, and a preparation evening for the upcoming Adoption conference this coming weekend.  Add a soccer game, a birthday party, housecleaning, normal church activities, a new walking group with other church lady friends, and grading papers/lesson planning, and you get the point.  The rest of this month doesn't look like it's going to be any different.  (Let's see, two nights of soccer practice, a night of Bible study, a monthly writer's group meeting, setting up for the Adoption conference, volunteering at the Adoption conference, etc.) Thankfully, we've all managed to stay healthy, so that has helped with the pace lately.  Mike and David are out playing around on their boy toys this morning, so I have a few moments to myself while I'm waiting for the washer to get done.

Our Esther study has been amazing so far.  We've had 20 plus women each week, with at least one or two missing each time.  Everyone has been very open to sharing and discussion, which really makes the study come so much more alive (I think, anyway).  It's so great to hear how God is speaking to the other women and to find out what He's doing in their lives.  This is the second study I've taught where I found out during the first class that one of the women has just recently moved here from Indiana and joined the Bible study in hopes of connecting with other women.  Small world!

The other night, Mike was working late, so David and I drove out to Rockwall to help prepare the binders for the Adoption Conference. (I wanted to go to meet other people in the group since we don't normally attend that campus, David wanted to go for the free pizza).  Anyway, while there I connected with another lady in the group named Rachel.  Come to find out, we had so much more in common than just our name.  She has family that lives in Indiana really close to where we used to live, so she goes up there every year or two.  She's an elementary school teacher, and her first foster care adoption happened to be of a 14 year old Hispanic boy.  What a neat little connection we made.  I look forward to seeing her again during the conference on Saturday, and I'm glad to have connected with someone from the group.

David has had an interesting start to his school year.  He finally got a male teacher this year, and he absolutely loves him.  What a difference that has made in his whole attitude toward school and even his attitude at home.  He was so miserable last year, but now that he is so fond of his teacher and the way he teaches, David actually looks forward to going to school every day again and even enjoys his homework.  He is very eager to do his best and to show his teacher just how well he can do.  I'm so thankful for the way it's worked out for him.

Normally by now, soccer would have been in full swing for him, but that's been a little different this year.  The coach of his team was unable to keep coaching, and Mike really didn't want to take over coaching the team again due to time and the frustration of working with kids that are too involved in too many things that they're just not committed.  So we decided to let the team disband, and we registered David for any team that had a spot.  Well, the season started yesterday with the opening games, and as of Friday night, David still didn't have a team.  Then late Friday night, we got a call from a coach saying that David had just been added to his roster, so he was welcome to come out to the first game on Saturday morning at 9:30.  David was a bit nervous because he hadn't met the team or his new coach and didn't even have a uniform, but the color of the uniform was yellow, so he wore his bright yellow Colombia soccer jersey and played in that.  I was so proud of his bravery, and he ended up playing really well.  He took the first shot at a goal in the game, and then assisted in one or two other goals made.  The other parents noticed that he was pretty good, so I'm really happy for him.  He did end up knowing two other players, so that helped.  I hope this turns out to be a good little team for him because he sure does love soccer.  He's made so many sacrifices through this adoption process, I hated for him to not be able to play soccer this season, too.

As far as the adoption is going, we're back to playing the waiting game.  At the moment, our home study is being edited and reviewed by both agencies (the Texas home study agency and our international agency in New York) for approval.  Once it's approved and they actually give us the final notarized report, we have to quickly get it sent to Austin to get apostilled, then it will go to Colombia to get translated asap and then we'll find out if they will give us the okay to continue with the process or not.  It hasn't mattered at all how quickly we have done our part and complied with everything, or how much we have insisted that we're on a very tight time schedule, it still is seeming to drag on (at least to me).  I don't know what God has worked out in the end, whether time will run out for Julian or not, but I know He's already there and has everything orchestrated according to His plan. (Some days I have to remind myself of that fact many times or I will very quickly get filled with incredible anxiety).

Things seem to finally be looking up for Julian right where he is, though, and I am eternally grateful for how God has let us witness the many miracles He has done for him (and has let us be a part of those miracles).  He's found an opportunity to continue his studies again, so this week he'll be starting a new set of classes in the same field that he was studying before.  He seems happier now than he  has in a very long time, and he's been able to reconnect with likely the only positive aspect of his childhood. I will admit, it has been hard for me to step back and let him flounder around, but God put us in the place where we had no choice because we no longer had a single resource to help him other than our constant love.  Now we're seeing how He has continued to step in and take care of that boy in ways we never could have thought of on our own.

That's it in a nutshell regarding our personal life.  School has been a real challenge for me this year, as I have a class that's not as easy to teach as some others have been (not that there's ever an easy class to teach, but some are easier than others).  I go home pretty frustrated some days, so I'm having to rethink some of my strategies.  Meeting with the parents, one by one, seems to be helping with a few of the issues, so it looks like I need to just make more time to do that.  If you think about it, pray for me!  I hope to have a few more things figured out and put in place before I have to get evaluated this year!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Esther

We started our study of Esther this week, and I was so grateful for the twenty-one women that signed up for the study, all very hungry both for a deeper understanding of Scripture and for fellowship with other Christian women.  To be honest, I had no preparation as to how to start our study or discussion, but at the very last minute God prompted me to write four questions on the board.  I knew we were going to be tight on time with an hour video, but I also knew that everyone needed to have the chance to get to know the other women in the room.  Was I ever glad that I decided to open up the floor for sharing our answers to those four "simple" questions because I was amazed at how much these women want and need a safe place in their lives to just be real.  I am really looking forward to the next nine weeks of study with them, not only to understand Scripture more because of the Biblical history that we learn along with it, but also to just enjoy the fellowship and to bond with one another.  It is truly my favorite place to be (besides with my family).

Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat.  It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing.  It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives.  They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer." (Purpose Driven Life, Day 18).  

My prayer is that in addition to growing closer to Christ and becoming more Biblically literate, we will share authentic fellowship as we bond together.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Inspiring

I was so thankful that our Meet the Teacher night at school got rescheduled for this coming week so that I could attend the teacher dinner/training for all of the women who are teaching a Bible study at church this fall.   It turned out to be a late night and I regretted drinking that cup of coffee after dinner because it kept me up half the night, but it was well worth it to be able to attend.  The fellowship was great, the drive with my friend was fun because we got to catch up with each other, and the training was captivating--it was one of those trainings that will stick with you for a long time.  However, I was so glad to attend because I had the privilege of witnessing one of the ladies being recognized for her many, many years of passionately leading other women in Bible study.  We found out that she is 81 years old (though she doesn't look or act a bit like it), and she won't let anything get in the way of keeping her from leading these studies.  She said that she won't stop until God stops her, and she said that each study and group of women is what keeps her going.  What an inspiration she is (she's also very special to me because she is a fellow poetry writer).  I hope that I can still have that fire within me when I'm her age.  She knows what matters most, and she pours her heart and soul into it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Watching God provide....one step at a time

We're starting a new FAITH initiative at church this week, so I got a new t-shirt that I'm supposed to wear to advertise in the Connection Center (where I serve after the service each week). It, of course, advertises the FAITH initiative, but the back just states these words...ONE STEP AT A TIME.  I absolutely love it.

Mike and I recently reached a point where our resources have run out to proceed with the next steps of the adoption, yet without our home study report in hand, we are having a hard time finding financial help.  We've got everything ready to apply for aid from several places, but all of them say the same thing....turn in your approved home study.  I'm rather frustrated that I don't have it yet, but that's not the point of this post.  The point is this:  Our next expense that needs to be paid very soon was going to cost us several hundred dollars.   We really didn't know what we were going to do.  Normally a few hundred dollars would not have been a big deal, but at this point in time, it became a huge deal.  Well, today we got a check in the mail from a dear friend and prayer warrior for the exact amount we needed. I opened the envelope and immediately started to cry.  How humbling to see God accomplish His purposes by burdening someone else's heart with our specific need.  I can't wait to tell Julian, who also knows that we've run out of money and has been fretting over how we were going to be able to proceed.  What a testimony to him.  We also got to share with David how God provided in such a specific way.  He keeps providing just what we need....one...step...at...a...time.

Just had to brag on God. :)  He's awesome!  I don't know why anyone would ever want to live without Him. I know that the person who sent the check will be blessed abundantly.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Break out sessions at the conference

There's a whole lot to choose from here!  You can be sure to find us in the ones that address orphan care, in addition to adoption.  I'll also have a table set up with my books if you'd like to purchase a copy to help us cover at least a portion of our most recent adoption expenses.

http://www.adoptionconference.net/lineup.php

More info. on the speaker for the adoption conference

http://www.adoptionconference.net/speakers.php

Adoption Conference

Looking forward to the Adoption Conference at Lake Pointe Church on September 29th.  Going to be a great speaker who is very passionate about orphan care.  Check it out! http://www.lpcadoption.org/lpcadoption.org/CurrentEvents/Default.aspx

Monday, September 3, 2012

For King & Country - The Proof of Your Love ~Lyrics

Reading, Reading, Reading

Why is it that I always seem to get really passionate about something right when school's starting up again?  Right when all my leisure summer time has disappeared, and I have to figure out how to schedule it all in?  Last year at this time, I was busily finishing up the last few pages of "our story", the book I never knew God was going to have me write.  I don't even remember the first few weeks of school last year because I was so consumed by writing that story.  This year, I find myself immersed into several books, along with tons of Scripture, desiring nothing more than to know and love God more and spend as much time alone with Him as possible before I start my day.  I say that with all sincerity because He literally woos me out of my bed very early every morning just to do so.  The poem on the right of this blog is truly my life poem, one that God has used to help me encourage many other women to give themselves to Him first each day, as well.  

So here's what I've been reading right now:

On Mission with God.  Can I just say, amazing?  I'm in a very confusing stage of life right now, not knowing what's coming, not sure how to prepare myself or my family, and not knowing how we'll be provided for.  It's very scary, to be sure.  I keep hearing the same message, the same question being asked of me.  Are you  willing to give it all in order to follow Him?  There are days when my honest answer has been that I just don't know.  If it weren't for my husband's vibrant faith in what God is obviously doing, I don't know that I would go through this again.  I have to daily surrender my fears to God and accept that He is all I need.  I've been so encouraged and inspired by the seven Biblical characters  investigated in this study that God used in mighty ways, seeing all that they had to give up, but then seeing how the glory that God received through them is matchless.  I want to live like that.

Praying God's Word.  What a great way to start the day.  A few weeks ago my pastor (the one who endorsed my book) asked me how I was praying regarding our current situation.  I told him that I just put those two boys in God's hands every day and ask that His will be done.  I will be more than honest to say that my heart is truly not in this process.  Last time around, the process (as difficult and tedious as it was) was a complete joy to me because I thought I knew what it was leading to.  This time around, the process is quite a valley-like experience, one that I'm dragging my feet through.  So, back to the conversation with my pastor, I told him that sometimes I just didn't even know how to pray regarding everything.  He recommended that I just pray His Word back to Him, so that very night I dug out my book by Beth Moore, Praying God's Word, and I pray through several pages of verses every day.  It really helps to keep my focus on Christ and His will rather than to be focused on myself and my circumstances.  I highly recommend it.

The Purpose Driven Life.  I got several free copies at Half-Price Books some time ago, and I've just given them out occasionally to people.  Well, this summer I was cleaning out some more stuff, and I offered several of them to the ladies in my Bible study group that came over one day for a movie.  One of them began reading it almost a month ago and told me how incredible it was.  She began sharing quotes that really stood out to her, so I was inspired to start reading it again myself.  I got Julian the  audio version, so I am trying to encourage him to stay on track with me and listen to a chapter a day.  It's been such a great reminder that our sole purpose is to know and love God and to let Him be known to everyone we meet.  My purpose is not to be a great teacher, to complete an adoption, to be a successful parent or adoptive parent, to be a missionary, to be a fun Mom, to have a close family, to decorate my house, to be frugal and save money, to be proud of my savings account, to give to others, to be an inspirational writer, or to have cute clothes and a cute hair style.  Our purpose is to know HIM and love HIM.  He may, in turn, give us many of these things or lead us to do certain things, but if they come before knowing and loving HIM, then we have not truly found our purpose.  It has really made me think about what it is that drives me to do the things I do.......What is my main priority each and every day?  Here is a quote that yesterday's chapter left me pondering over....
(p.76--Day Nine--What Makes God Smile)...."Is pleasing Him your deepest desire?..When you live in light of eternity, your focus changes from, 'How much pleasure am I getting out of life?' to 'How much pleasure is God getting out of my life?'......."

Praying God's Will for my Son and Praying God's Will for my Husband--These books are exactly the same, filled with about 10-15 Scriptures each day that focus on praying over different areas of my son's or my husband's life.  I have started praying these Scriptures over not only Mike and David, but also Julian and Juan David.  I also have made it a habit to have my prayer time in the extra bedroom set up for Juan David, almost like preparing the atmosphere of the room before he even gets here, if he does.  Praying these prayers has freed me from praying my own desires for all of them and gives me the assurance that I am praying God's will over their lives.

The Disciplines of a Godly Woman--This book has captivated me.  I'm so glad to have found a friend that could get me a copy, and to have a dear friend in Colombia who insisted that I read it.  So far I've read the chapters that include the discipline of the Gospel, of Submission, of Prayer, of Worship, of the Mind, and of Contentment.  The one on contentment really stood out to me because it showed just how hard it is to be content when we have little and how much harder it is to be content when we have more.  We are insatiable beings, and the only true contentment we will ever find is in Christ.  This quote really stood out to me, "The fact is that women who love God and love His Word find sources of joy and satisfaction that surpass any the world has to offer.  So it stands to reason that the rampant discontent among evangelical women stems from their shallow knowledge of the Bible".  Too many women have knowledge that they never learn to apply...

The Connected Child--This is one of the most highly recommended books for adoptive families who are raising children who came from hard places.  How insightful to know that the parenting strategies that work for your biological children may be very, very different from what will work with adoptive children, especially older adoptive children that bring a whole painful history into your home with them.  I know if this adoption goes through, Mike and I have many, many challenges ahead of us and need to be as prepared as possible.  Our entire life and lifestyle will change, and we have to be ready to face a watching, judging world who will not understand....I'm so thankful for this book, the author (who spoke at our adoption conference last year), and the many resources she has available for families like ours may one day become.

Esther--Next week our ladies' Fall Bible Study begins, and we are about to embark on a journey through the life and times of Esther.  I have attempted to teach this study before, but God just wouldn't let me.  The fact that He let me now shows that it is His time and that He has already hand-chosen the women that will be part of our group.  I am so, so, so ready to get started!  I miss that weekly fellowship, support, and encouragement, and I love getting to know so many new people every semester.  It's what makes a big church suddenly feel so much smaller.

So, there's what's been stealing my attention lately.  The last time I was so compelled to read was when I was grieving the loss of the kids.  God used all that He taught me in that period of time to prepare me for the life He was going to give us with Julian, for the book He was going to have me write, and for the beginning of a ministry that would inspire many other women to immerse themselves in the Word.  He's obviously preparing me for something now.  I know that through His strength in me, I can meet the challenge.  Thank you for all of your many prayers for me and the way you continue to encourage me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The kids are watching....

My good friend from my last Bible study responded to my plea for the book I was wanting, The Disciplines of a Godly Woman, so David and I walked over to her house last night together to go get it from her.  We enjoyed a good walk over there, just talking and having some great conversation.  Plus I love the fact that he still holds my hand when we walk together.  (I will so miss that someday!) It was actually very convicting to see how much my little guy just wanted to talk now that he had my undivided attention away from my computer and all the social media that I can so quickly attach myself to.  We got to my friend's house, got the book, and stayed there just talking to her for a bit.  Then we left to walk home so we could make it before it got dark.

As we turned the corner just after leaving her house, I told David how excited I was to start reading the book.  He asked why, so I told him that not only is it going to help me become more disciplined, but I also was looking forward to the connection it will give me with Mercedes, the lady that Julian is living with now.  I am reading  The Purpose Driven Life along with Julian (I gave him the audio version), and now I will be reading The Disciplines of a Godly Woman with her.  (Plus I'm reading through at least three other books right now, on top of preparing to teach Esther....).  Anyway, David responded again by asking, "But how is this book going to help you, Mom?"  Before I could even answer, he gave me the most priceless compliment he ever could have given me, one that I will strive daily to live up to. "You're already the best example there is of a person who worships God."  Wow.  That little boy really is watching and learning.  I sure do adore him and thank God for giving him to me.  Just a week or so ago, I said, "You are just so adorable.  How did I get so lucky to get a kid as adorable as you?"  He looked at me and said, "Because you were faithful to God, so He gave me to you."

We may have our issues at times as parents of a preadolescent, but he sees what we prioritize with our time and energy.  Kids are always watching.  May I always remember that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A peace that passes all understanding

This was one long, busy, tiring, and rather complicated week, yet we survived.  I'm actually really looking forward to starting school on Monday morning with my 22 new little darlings under a new principal with a possibility of being out for at least a month at some point during the year if God does indeed lead us back to Colombia for an adoption of one or both of those boys.  You'd think that with that possibility looming overhead and with all the unknowns that complicate my life right now, I should be a bit stressed and overwhelmed.  The truth is, though, I'm not.  I was, but now I just feel a total peace that God is driving this boat, He will take care of our needs, and wherever He decides to take us on this journey is okay with me.  He's provided too many miracles at a moment's notice for me to worry and fret over all the what-ifs about a tomorrow that's not even here yet.  I work with two incredibly driven teammates (who are awesome, by the way) who are constantly making to-do lists and planning for weeks and months down the road.  I, on the other hand, am the very relaxed one who just makes sure that I'm ready to teach the following day and have a plan for the next day after that.  I provide the structure and routine that my kids need, and then we take each day or week as it comes.  I can't say I've always been this way--I think a lot of it comes from what I've learned about walking with God over the last few years.  My walk with Him affects every area of my life and my being.

This week was a bit complicated for Julian, as well, but the future seems to be looking up.  The lady he's been living with has officially moved to another area of the country where she can use her passion for music education more effectively.  We knew when he moved in with her that he only had six months until he'd have to find somewhere else, so to us, those were six months for him to transition out of the orphanage so he'd be more ready to be on his own.  She put the word out and talked to a lot of people about his need for a place to live by August, but no one responded.  When she told me that back in June, my only response to her was that I really felt like God had already chosen someone who wasn't even in the picture yet.  It was going to be someone that we didn't even know.  Just a few days later, we got invited to a cookout at a Baptist church and divinely "ran into" perhaps the most influential person from Julian's childhood.  The one I wrote about in my book, the lady who had planted seeds into his heart as a child that took root and never left him.  Though he's still got a long way to grow spiritually, those little seeds planted in him so long ago have kept him seeking water so that they could begin to grow.  When he and I came to the conclusion that we had no way of finding her, I prayed that God would bless her for her faithfulness to spread the Word to those children and that somehow she would know how God continued to work in their lives.  Not only did she meet us and become our instant prayer warrior through this second adoption attempt, but she also has provided Julian a new home to live in, has guided him to take some very positive steps toward his future, has gotten him to attend church and prayer meetings with her, but she's also become like a mentor to me and a huge source of encouragement.  She is a miracle.  I am blessed beyond measure to not only know her, but to now partner with her in guiding Julian in his spiritual journey.  Only God.  There are some times in life when you realize that you're living out something that only God could have orchestrated. There are not words to express the miracle of finding her.  I guess that's another reason why I'm not a big planner, anymore.  You just never know what surprise God has right around the corner.

This week, she sent me a message saying that she's studying a book at the Bible Institute that I really need to read.  It's called The Disciplines of a Godly Woman.  I am now on a search for it.  If anyone nearby has a copy that I can borrow, please let me know.  I would love to be able to study something alongside her and think it would be an amazing connection for us, plus the book looks amazing.  I went to Half-Price Books to look for it, but they didn't have it.  Today I'll check the Christian bookstore, and if that doesn't work, I'll see how cheap I can find it online (yes, I'm scraping for pennies at the moment...).  However, while I was at Half-Price Books last night, I found another book on the clearance rack that I know without a doubt was the book I was "sent" there to find.  It's a workbook called On Mission with God--Living God's Purpose for His Glory, by Avery Willis and Henry Blackaby.  If you don't know, I led a group of women through the study called Experiencing God in the spring, by Henry Blackaby, and this one "is a natural follow-up" to that study (as quoted on the back of the book).  I do believe this is a study that I need to lead in the future.  I'm so excited that I found it, (and that it was on the clearance rack)!

So, I'll end all this babbling now with a quote that I underlined on the first page of the study.

You usually ask God for a road map of your life, and He replies, "I am the Way.  I will personally lead you.  Follow Me and My commands, and you will get to the destination." On the way you discover that you may not get to the destination you first had in mind, but you will get to His destination for your life--a far better arrival point than you had planned.  That's what it means to be on mission with God.  You let Him be your Guide and direct you, because you believe He has a purpose for you.  


Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to school!

I can't believe it's here already (maybe that's because our summer wasn't as restful as others have been).  We've been back to school as teachers for four days now, and in between meetings, watching required videos, and attending staff development, we've been working hard to get our rooms ready for our Porch Party last night.  We always hope that we have a good turn-out because it gives the kids a chance to drop off all of their school supplies early, find their room and desk, meet their teacher, etc., before the first day of school.  Then everything tends to flow much more smoothly that first day, plus it gives us a chance to organize many of those supplies that the kids don't keep at their desk.

Well, anyway, I got to meet 19 of my 22 students last night, and then I had an extra parent who came and brought supplies, but the child wasn't able to come.  So that means that there were only two parents that I didn't get to meet.  That proved to be a pretty good start to the year, I'd say.  The kids all seemed really sweet and very eager to be back at school.  I hope to have a great year with all of them.

I also got a chance to slip out for a half hour to get over to David's school Porch Party, which is only a mile away from my school.  We were glad to see that he got the only male fifth grade teacher, and he seemed to have a neat personality.  We also found out that he and David have something in common--a fire ant allergy!  It always makes you feel more confident as a parent of a child with a severe allergy to know that their teacher totally gets it.  Anyway, David wasn't a real happy camper last year at school, so this year is already looking to be brighter.  However, as a mom of a fifth grader, I don't know how great I felt about knowing this was his last Porch Party at the elementary school level. :(  This is one year I DON'T want to just fly by.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another one under our belt....

We now have yet another home study under our belt.  We survived yet another set of interviews where we very honestly shared our hearts and our dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures, and now our commitment to walk through this all again for the love we have for a fourteen year old boy that we met four years ago and his older brother, who very unexpectedly captured our hearts, as well.  We still have to wait on the final report to be written, but we feel good about how it all went and are at peace with whatever happens now.  It's all in God's hands, and He's always had a plan.  Let's just wait and see how it all plays out from here.

Once our home study report is completed and the final fees are paid, we are completely out of funds from here on out.  We will reapply for the Matching Grant we received the first time around as soon as we have that approved home study in our hands, so hopefully that gift that so many friends and family contributed toward our adoption pursuit three years ago will come back to us now to help us through.  All I know is that we've been in this exact situation once before, and if I remember right, God totally came through.  I trust He will again.