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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Looking good

Well, our psychological evaluations look pretty good this second time around.  It's amazing the difference in how the results were reported now that we took the right test.  We feel very good about them and don't anticipate any problems once they get to Colombia.  Now we're just hoping to hear from a social worker ASAP to get this second home study underway.  Every time I'm tempted to fret and panic over our timeline, I feel a gentle hand on my shoulder telling me to just rest in Him.  He's always had a plan, and He will accomplish it on His timetable.

David and I have been enjoying our time together for our last few weeks of summer.  With temperatures over 100 degrees on a daily basis, we've opted for staying inside.  We've spent many hours making very critical financial investments and decisions over a Monopoly board.  We finished our Hank Zipzer series of chapter books that we've been reading all year together.  (What a challenging series to read as a teacher, reminding me just how careful I have to be to find and point out the strengths in each and every child). Tomorrow will be filled with a dentist appointment, lunch out to support Chick Fil-A, and a coffee date with a dear friend who lives nearby.  One of these days we hope to make it to Six Flags with our free tickets, but the heat has made that choice not seem to be as appealing as it could be.  I'll likely be in to my classroom pretty soon so I can get things organized and set up while it's still calm and quiet--I've learned that taking a few hours to be there the week before anyone else makes a huge difference in how I start the year.  It's always worth the few hours of summer that I gave up.

I've been busy getting started on our new book.  So far I'm about 22 pages in with 3 chapters complete.  Lots and lots of poetry this time.  Today I hope to get through chapter four.  I have this overwhelming feeling that I need to get it all down while it's still fresh in my mind and while I still have the time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Arguing with God

Have you ever tried arguing with God?  I have.  Actually, I've been doing that a lot lately.  I used to think it was a pointless exercise, but the more He argues back, the more I see the value in the argument just so it forces me to listen to His responses.  Here's what my inner world has sounded like recently:

Me:  God, how do I know if this is really Your will, Your direction for us?
God:  My child, haven't you seen Me open doors that you were told could never be opened?
Me:  Yes, I suppose so.  But don't you see what's left in my bank account? There's no way we have enough.
God:  Did I not feed the multitudes with only a few small loaves and fishes, and then provide twelve basketfuls of leftovers?  I don't need "your" money to accomplish My will.
Me:  What if we do all this again, and they still say no?
God:  What if you do all this again, and this time they say yes?  Do you want to live life always wondering what would have happened if....?
Me:  But don't You remember how devastated we all were, all five of us?  I just can't bear the thought of going through that heartache again.
God:  But don't you remember how I carried you through that valley, holding you closer than I ever had before? Don't you remember the beauty that came from those ashes, and the people you became throughout the trial? Would you really want to trade who you are today for that insecure girl you were before just to have escaped the heartache?
Me:  But what if we're not ready for all the change?
God:  Have I not promised that I will never leave you or forsake you?  Just as I have always been, I will always be there, right by your side, willing to take you by the hand and walk with you.
Me:  But God, our goal just seems impossible.  There are too many complications to this case.  There's no way it can all work out.
God:  Am I not the God of the Universe?  Do you not think that I can make the impossible become possible?
Me:  But God, look at the calendar.  We're racing against the clock.  There's just not enough time for this to be accomplished.
God:  Child, did I not create time?  Did I not make the sun stand still in order for My people to win a battle?  Have I not already given you connections that have saved countless weeks of time? Time is in My hands.  It always has been.
Me:  But God, how can we possibly meet the emotional needs of a child who has been fatherless for so long?
God:  Am I not the Father to the fatherless?  I have cared for his needs all this time and will continue to do so.  It is not up to you. Have I not shown you that their story began many, many years ago, and that connecting with you was just another step in their journey that was always part of My plan?
Me:  But God, what if I just don't have what it takes?  What if we're just walking into an inevitable storm, emotionally, mentally, financially--whether the adoption goes through this time or not?
God:  You have Me.  I am all you need.  Now stop fretting and just trust Me.  I know what I'm doing.
Me:   (Silence)

Yeah, we go through this argument pretty much every day. I never win the argument, thankfully, but I'm grateful that I've learned to not be afraid to argue because His responses are always worth hearing again.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Our Austin adventure

Besides seeing a psychologist, we also did some fun stuff together.....

Like starting out the day with a true Texas breakfast....
 Getting cooled off in a place we visited four years ago with two very special little Colombians

 Remembering the Alamo
 Visiting the capitol
...and spending our last night meeting some other Colombian adoptees and their adoptive father at 
Casa Colombia 

Three short weeks

Well, I realized today that I've only been back for three weeks, yet I only have three weeks left until I'll be officially back to work.  This has been an amazing summer, but definitely not one that I could call restful.  I am hoping that doesn't come back to bite me half-way through the school year.  Who knows?  I might just find myself back in Colombia sooner than I think.

As I look back over the last three weeks, I am absolutely amazed at what God has opened the doors for us to accomplish.  In these 21 days, our adoption case was reopened, we reconnected with our agency, we found, scheduled, and completed our new psychological evaluations and testing, we met and had dinner with a Colombian adoptive parent in Austin who helped us get in touch with our lawyer in Colombia (and also gave us valuable information to help us through the more complicated legalities of this case), we found a new home study agency and have already submitted all the paperwork, we found four good contacts to write up a reference for us, we've scheduled appointments and have been seen by our doctors and were tested for TB, Hepatitis B, and HIV, we've been blessed by at least some extra funds that people have sent our way, and our son was able to go to camp for five days.  I didn't think it was possible to get the ball rolling so quickly......When I told Julian how fast things were moving along, he said, "God is definitely in control.  I didn't understand that, but now I see it.  He is the One guiding everything here."

Still, I'm having a hard time looking into the future.  All I can focus on is getting these new psych. evaluations and home study to Colombia as soon as possible so we can be given a yes or no to continue.  THEN I can begin to look ahead to the future.  We're hoping to have a social worker from the Dallas area assigned to us any day so we can schedule our actual home study very quickly.  Last time around, we went through this whole process with such incredible joy and confidence in a certain outcome.  This time around we approach it with a lot more "fear and trembling", not really knowing what the outcome is going to look like, yet very confident that God has a divine plan for us and this is just another step He's asked us to take.

Last night in Bible study, we talked again of how God's power is made perfect in our weakness, how our trials just make us become stronger.  As we have been filling out more paperwork and answering questions about our own strengths and weaknesses as individuals, spouses, and parents, we both have realized just how much stronger we are now, how much more confident we are in Christ and in who He has made us.  Our growth as a couple, a family, and as individuals just shines so brightly in every paper we fill out.  Even if the boat were to stop here, with our new evaluations and home study still not being "enough", it's still worth the trouble just to see how far we've come and to see just who we have become.  So many people still keep saying to me, "If only they had.....OR....they should have.....".  I won't even go down that road because I'm thankful for the direction our story went.  I honestly don't look back and wish that any of it were different.  We wouldn't be who we are today if anything had gone differently.  God always had a plan, and it's obviously still in place, just as it was always meant to be.  Whether or not our little family ever grows through a legal adoption, our family has already grown in so many ways, more ways than we ever could have imagined.

I have now officially started our second book.  The general outline is in place, I've placed several poems at the start of certain chapters, and I've already begun to write the first chapter.  I have a feeling it's going to take me a little longer to write this one, though, because I have no idea how it's going to end.....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's a mystery....

Yes, what the outcome of this reopened adoption case will be will remain a mystery to us until it is complete once again.  It is nerve-wracking and risky, to say the least.  However, I read this quote this morning that really struck me, so I thought I'd share.

"God knows that if He were to tell us everything we needed to know about our lives, assuming we could comprehend it, we would probably run off in desire and excitement to fulfill our purpose, without returning to the conversation........Mystery is an invitation to intimacy with God.  Instead of wasting your energy fighting mystery, allow mystery to stir you and guide you to keep asking and seeking and knocking." (Gary Barkalow, It's Your Call, p.43-44)

So, back to the yellow brick road, where the only step I know to take is the one illuminated, and I trust that the next one we are to take will be clear when it's time to take it.  In the meantime, we will embrace the opportunity to seek God's presence more.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The day that changed our lives

Four years ago today, our family came to Austin, Texas to meet two kids from Colombia whose pictures had been up on our refrigerator.  It just happened to be Colombia's Independence Day, so we met them at a picnic celebration at a lake. Though nothing at all turned out the way we'd hoped and planned over the years that followed, I look back over these last four years with very fond memories.  I got to love and be loved by those two sweet children.  Our family became much more aware of the realities of the orphan and their need to be loved and cherished.  We learned a ton about Colombia, specifically, and have even had the chance to go twice in the last 13 months for more time than most people would even spend on a vacation.  Because our adoption attempt did not work out, we splurged on a fun family vacation out to the East Coast and then on a mission trip out to the West Coast.  We met Julian and became an unofficial family, I became an author and have had the chance to touch many people with our story.  I finally started teaching ladies' Bible studies like I always wanted to, and I found more joy than I ever could have wished for in doing so, along with all of the support, accountability, love, and connection that I've found in all of those women.  We've met and connected with so many amazing people along the way and now have more friends and family all over the globe.  Plus our own little family unit has grown so much closer to each other and to Christ through it all. How in the world can we look back over the events of the last four years and consider it a failure?

I find it a little uncanny that here were are again, four years later, back in the very same place.  I didn't even realize what God had done when we scheduled this first appointment with a psychologist in Austin until I realized what the date was.  July 20th--Colombia's Independence Day.  Exactly four years later, and we just went through another round of psychological testing and interviews to start this process all over.  Our hearts are guarded.  Though we have a ton of blessing and support behind us with incredible connections in both continents, it's still hard to even give our hearts a glimmer of hope that it will all work out just fine this time.  But we've been given the unlikely chance to try again, so we have to give it a shot.  Either it will finally bring that boy home or it will give us the closure we desperately need to know if this adoption was ever meant to be.  So, we're taking a very positive stance on everything, and we're turning it into just another family adventure and experience.  Yesterday after our appointments, we just spent the day together as a family, enjoying lunch together, then touring a little bit of Austin to give David a chance to see all the things he studied in Texas history in fourth grade.  He was fascinated and so excited to see so much that he learned come to life.  Then we hung out at the pool for the afternoon, and then our new friend (who we are incredibly grateful for because he gave us the connections we needed to restart everything) met us at a cool Colombian restaurant here in Austin called Casa Colombia.  Needless to say, we felt right at home. :)  Today we plan to do a little more touring around, visit some friends, and then head home.  We're so thankful for the opportunity to spend these three days here, though, especially considering the date. :)  Happy Colombian Independence Day!  Colombia, you will forever have my heart.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back from camp!

Well, about a week after getting home from Colombia, David packed his bags again and headed off to camp, leaving us for five days straight.  Boy, was the house ever quiet!  I missed him like crazy, but I knew he was well prepared and all set to have a great time, so I felt good about this experience for him.  He finally came home today, watched a movie and chilled with me, made plans for a friend to come over to play for the night, and now he's fast asleep.  I texted his friend's mom and told her not to rush!  I'm just so glad to have him back home and to know he had an amazing time.  Problem is he came back just a little more grown up again......

Tomorrow we pack our bags yet again to head to Austin for a few days as a family.  God didn't waste any time getting this reattempted adoption underway (that's good because we really have an extremely short time span in order for it all to work), so we're headed to see a psychologist that was recommended to us for this purpose by someone who's had multiple successes with him in regard to adopting older children from Colombia.  So, we are looking forward to some good family time by the pool, seeing some friends, and also exploring a little more of Austin, and we know that our evaluations are in God's hands.  Everything we've been through has had purpose, so this step (or "brick") that we're on must be filled with purpose, as well. While we're gone, our home study paperwork should arrive in the mail, so we'll begin that step of the process as soon as we get home.  Godspeed.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Here we go AGAIN

I've been told by many people that I need to start writing a sequel to my book, including "Juan" himself when I gave him his own copy and gave him a brief overview of what each part of the book was about.  That act in itself is enough to make me take a few steps back in amazement.  I remember writing somewhere in the middle of the book when everything fell apart that I wondered if God would ever cross our paths again. I was devastated that he'd never know just what we'd poured into that process nor would he ever read the poems I'd written specifically for him along the way. Then I remember writing that a year later I asked God to just let me hear from him again, and I miraculously got a letter and pictures.  Then another year after that I asked God to let me see him again, and I got a surprise, divinely arranged skype call.  Since February of this year when I heard he was not going to be adopted after all, I started begging God to reunite us, to give him back.  Little did I know that others who had read the book and felt like they knew him, too, were praying the very same thing.  God did indeed reuinte us, and I can't express to you what it felt like to see his eyes light up as he held "our" book, "our" story, in his hands and then looked me in the eye and said, "Now you need to start writing Part Two ."

What Part Two will entail is still to be lived out.  God gave me the title to the first book before the format of the the story took shape, and I believe He's now given me the title to the second book--From the Mountain...to the Valley...and Back...AGAIN!  It will, of course, deal with now our second attempt to officially adopt him, but I believe that the message of this book will be that God gives us so much more than we can ever ask or imagine.  We really don't know how it's going to work out this time.  However, we've been given enough favor by Colombia to let us get a new psychological evaluation and home study to see if we're even "approvable".  (The miracle in that is that it's never been done before. No one has ever been given the favor to try again.) If they are satisfied, then we can continue with the rest of the process.  If they are not, then we will become a supportive family role in "Juan's" life via the telephone and yearly visits.  No matter the outcome, it is still obvious to me that God has answered my prayer and given him back.

As miraculous as it is, it has sent me into quite an emotional frenzy as I face this process again.  It has put me right back on my knees before God, begging for guidance for every little step, for comfort as I relive a very difficult time in my life, for assurance that He's prepared us for a child now 4 years older who has been dealt much more loss than he had experienced four years ago, and for financial provision for something we weren't given the opportunity to save for and therefore do not have enough to even start these first two steps.  Yet this morning I was watching a DVD to catch up on the last two weeks of the ladies' Bible study that I missed, and the session I watched today was about taking shelter in the promise of God's provision. Sheila Walsh (one of my favorite authors and speakers) began and ended the session by saying that if we don't have enough, that's good, because it's right where God wants us to be.  If we did have enough, what a shame it would be to miss out on watching Him provide for our every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.  What a great reminder--I need to take a stand on that promise today as we move forward.  So, here we go AGAIN!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The people you'll meet

So, we went to a lot of cool (and not so cool) places, and we did a lot of fun (and some not so fun) things.  We learned and experienced A LOT.  However, all of that can still leave us void and leave a meaningless impression if it wasn't for all of the amazing people that we met and the relationships that we developed on the way.  The awesome thing is, that no matter where you travel or how far you are from home, all you have to do is connect with others in the Body of Christ to immediately know you are among family.  Your family as a believer in Christ is more than just biological, it's more than just who you're married to, it's more than your local church, it's more than your intimate small group.  It's worldwide.  My favorite part of traveling is meeting and worshiping with and serving together with my brothers and sisters in Christ who live in another country, continent, and speak another language.  So let me introduce to you the "family" that we met and connected with on our journey back to Colombia.

We got in late our first night, so the very next morning, we met our first new friend, Zayde.  Zayde works for the ECALI English Institute that is connected with El Camino Academy.  She and I had corresponded very formally via e-mail, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she lived just a few floors up from our apartment and had a daughter just a year younger than David.  She invited us to a meeting the following day at a coffee shop so we could meet the other teachers that we'd be working with.  That first connection that day turned into an amazing relationship over the weeks that followed as she began to understand our story and she shared their own story of an adoption that didn't work out.  We not only worked together for the next three weeks, but we traveled to many places with her and her family, including a nearby town called Chia, her own local church, a cookout at a nearby church (which was divinely orchestrated for us to be at) and a weekend retreat at a Colombian paradise.  Her huge heart and generous spirit just blew us away.  God provided her with the job at the school when she most needed it, and I couldn't think of a better person for the position because she REALLY takes care of her teachers that come from abroad.

We went to the meeting the following day at the coffee shop, and there we met Andrew (a college student from Chicago, originally from Hong Kong), Kelly (a young single missionary from the Chicago area who was still fairly new in Colombia, who just happened to have studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina--just like me!), Angela (who was my amazing aide in my class of pre-k and kindergarten), Diana (who was the director of the summer school program, with the absolute sweetest heart ever), and Melody (another young single missionary from Moody Bible Institute, originally from Peoria, Illinois).  Soon after that meeting, we later met Stacey (a newlywed from Montana who shared a lot of common physical features with me, so we called ourselves sisters), Hannah (a grad student from Wheaton who was finishing up her Master's degree in teaching English as a second language, and who had studied abroad earlier in Uruguay in one of the cities that I visited during my own study abroad experience), and Roger (a long-time missionary in Colombia who works with a disabled ministry, but who was also serving as the P.E. Coach for summer school--he grew pretty fond of David by the end of our stay.  Roger even came over at 5:30 in the morning on our last day just so he could pray with us before we left).  Once school started, we got to know Kathleen (a long time missionary in Colombia who raised her 3 sons there, along with two Colombian daughters, one of whom she never got to officially adopt) and Lilian (the lady who taught the art classes for summer school).  We developed a wonderful relationship with all of them, several of whom have now read my book and got to get personally involved in our story.  Kelly, Hannah, and Andrew all went with us on our retreat to Apulo, so we got to connect on a pretty personal level with them there.  I miss them all already, but thankfully the internet has kept us in touch since we came home. :)

In addition to our coworkers at school, we also met Susie (who Julian has been living with since February), Maria Victoria (the neighbor who invited him to join their prayer group each week), Albita (the lady who has been discipling Julian, who unfortunately is battling cancer right now), Fery and his wife (a famous Austrian man who married a Colombian and adopted 3 older siblings from Julian's orphanage and lives near where Julian lives),  and Mercedes and her daughter Carolina (who God used to continue to reveal Julian and "Juan's" story to us).  We also had the privilege of being reunited with our dear friend Claire that we met last year (who has since moved to Medellin, then spent two months in India, and was coming through Bogota' for a day on her way back to Medellin), Jen (who was Claire's roommate a year ago, but now lives alone and had us over for dinner), Julian (who was with us from the moment we arrived at our apartment until the moment we left) and our precious "Juan" (who was overjoyed to see us and spend time with us).

All of our time would have been meaningless had it not been for all these wonderful people that we had the privilege to get to know.  We are eternally grateful.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The things that you'll do

I realized before I started writing this that when I wrote about the places we went, that encompassed a lot of ground regarding the things that we did.  However, there were a few things that I didn't cover or didn't go into much detail over.

First and foremost, our main task was to volunteer our time and service to the school, El Camino Academy.  Mike ended up spending all of his time painting while he was there, except for the week that he had dental issues and was told not to do anything strenuous.  Painting is a lot of moving up and down, so he took a break for those few days.  Over the three weeks, though, he painted several classrooms, hallways, and part of the cafeteria.  David helped out with the gym classes for the first two weeks, and then there were extra volunteers helping in the third week, so he picked and chose when he would hang out in the gym or when he would hang out in my classroom.  His favorite time of the day was 10:10 because that was when the whole school took a 20 minute break.  He would go find his Daddy, get some change from him to get a snack, and they would sit and hang out together for those 20 minutes every day.  I ended up teaching a class of 4-6 year olds.  We did games, songs, Bible verses, cooking, watched movies, went to the computer, had gym class and art class every day, and worked on some Reading and Writing skills, depending on their grade level.  It wasn't an easy task working with 4 year olds who didn't know their letters or how to write them versus working with six year olds who were already reading and writing quite well.  But we managed.  The main focus was improving their listening and speaking skills in English, so it was really just all about exposure to more English and being forced to practice.  The first week's theme was the zoo, the second week was the beach, and the third week was the amusement park.  They learned a lot of new words and had a lot of fun.  They were a really sweet bunch of kids.  I had 18 on my roster, but I had an average of 15 kids each day.

At 12:30, the bell would ring, the kids would scramble out to their designated school vans, and our family would all meet back together to have lunch in the cafeteria at a discounted rate.  That was where we were able to sample more of the traditional Colombian foods (which David turned his nose up to pretty much every day).  Every meal consisted of a bowl of soup, a serving of rice, a meat dish, salad, fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice made from a different fruit each day, and a piece of candy for dessert.  It was our main meal of the day, so for our evening dinners we survived on sandwiches and quesadillas.  Mike did almost all of the cooking, partly because he knows I'm not good in the kitchen (especially a foreign one), and also partly because my time and attention were consumed with the Spanish/English communication factor going on in our home.  We all enjoyed everything he made, though. :)

We'd catch a bus to go home somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 each day.  We lived really close to the school, so it was never a long ride.  Sometimes we'd take the afternoon to do a little sight-seeing, hang out with our new friends, take a nap, or just chill.  Other times we'd barely make it out of there in time to make it to an appointment (like with the lawyer or with the dentist).  Plus we got invited for dinner with several of the other missionaries there, so many of our evenings were full, as well.  Life was busy and complicated on many occasions.  In the evenings when we weren't busy, we would go across the street and buy a movie for really cheap.  There was a TV screen and DVD player in Julian's room downstairs, so Mike would make popcorn for everybody, and we'd hang out on Julian's bed to watch a movie together.  (Actually, David and I would take up the whole bed to curl up together, while Julian made himself comfortable with a pillow on the floor and Mike would bring in a rocker from the other room).

Three days out of the week, we didn't see Julian very much.  On Wednesdays he would go to a neighbor's house (back where he lived) because one of her friends would come over and meet with him for an hour or two to study the Bible.  It was a specific discipleship course that they were going through that gives him the foundations of his faith.  Afterwards, he would show me his notes from everything they read and what he had learned.  I had the opportunity to meet the lady and thank her for what she was doing in his life.  I've learned just how much that boy craves to be loved, so I believe that's what draws him back week after week.  On Fridays, he would go to a course called ManPower, which was giving him lessons on how to prepare himself for the workforce.  He earned a certificate each time, and by the end of the last course, they helped him create a better resume with all of these courses listed.  Unfortunately, they had to stop offering the courses due to funds, but they let him know he can continue with several of them online.  Friday nights, he would come home pretty late, sometimes as late as 7:00, we'd force him to eat something, and then he and I would grab a taxi (it was dark after 6:00 every night) to head to his prayer meeting that meets in the same house where he went on Wednesdays.  What an amazing group of people with such a heart to know Christ more.  It was such a privilege to meet them.  They spend time singing, praying (a LOT), someone gives a message or devotional, they take offering, and they have a small refreshment. I will admit, it was a bit more charismatic than I am used to, so there were moments that made me uncomfortable, but to know that Julian has faithfully attended this group for months now was such a gift.  What I also loved was watching how comfortable he'd become with that little Bible that we spent a fortune to send to him at the orphanage a year and a half ago.....Well, God didn't let me off the hook for leading Bible study while I was there, because my first night there, they asked me to give the devotional the following week.  So, over the next few days, in addition to making my lesson plans for school, I came up with a devotional to share with this amazing little group.  Julian searched for music for the worship time, and I used Priscilla Shirer's book called Divine Interruptions (Spanish translation) to help me formulate a devotional.  We talked about how sometimes life throws us curveballs that make us want to scream (or just general problems or inconveniences that throw a wrench into our plans).  We have two choices every time....to complain and ask why or to accept that maybe that interruption is divine and holds a greater purpose for our lives.  I then finished with my own testimony of our failed adoption of Julian's siblings, showing how what I thought was to be the greatest hardship of my life has turned into being one of the greatest blessings in my life because through it, we found Julian.  Well, needless to say, the whole room was in tears when I was done.  Plus it opened the door for Julian to open up on a more personal level with everyone now that they knew more of his own story.  I was just getting over from being sick, so we stayed for the refreshment and then someone gave us a ride home.  Our following two Fridays were busy, so we didn't make it back to the prayer meeting again during the month.

Saturdays were Julian's day to work with the kids at the foundation where he grew up.  So far, this is his only form of employment, plus he enjoys it.  He would leave early in the morning and wouldn't come home until at least 6:00 or later.  It was good for him to have a break from us, and it was good for us to just hang out alone for the day.  By the time he got home, we'd have a light dinner, make some popcorn, and watch a movie together.

Sundays we visited several different churches.  The first week, we went to a Baptist Church with our new friends from the school.  There was a guy from Canada there who did translation for the service, so that was good for Mike and David.  However, it was a very long morning, which we personally are not used to since we go to church on Saturday nights. I did see a brochure there, though, that advertised a Bible Institute called Logos that meets in that building. I asked if they had grants available, and they said yes.  I made the comment to Julian that I'd like to see him get into the Institute.  He said he'd think about and told me not to push, to which my response was...."Fine.  I will pray.  And you know what kind of things happen when I start praying." :)  Well, he's been back and forth on whether or not he wants to go, but the topic is still up for discussion.....He has told two people in the church that he would like to go, so now I leave it in their hands (and God's, of course).  I think it would be amazing for him.  However, you have to be very serious about your studies there, and I'm not sure they think he is ready....yet.

The second Sunday we went to the Wesleyan Church with Julian.  It's the same church he went to as a child,  so it's been neat to see how God drew him right back once he had the chance to go.  The music and praise time was beautiful.  It's a huge building and made you feel like you were back home.  However, once again, it was a bit more charismatic than we were used to.  I wasn't going to let him know that, though, because I was just glad that he'd found a church home and was faithfully going.  The third Sunday we went on our little vacation to our Colombian paradise, so we listened to a recording of someone speaking (I don't remember who) as we sat at the round table and drank coffee together after breakfast.  The last Sunday we were there, we went to another Baptist church to see the lady we'd met on our first weekend who had played such an incredible part in Julian and Juan David's life when they were very young. ( She used to take them to the Wesleyan Church, which was much smaller then, but in the last several years, she ended up switching to the Baptist Church.)   We took all three boys and only stayed for the Sunday school hour, but in that time we were able to give Juan David his first Bible. :) We also got invited over to the lady's house for lunch the next day.  (Her name is Mercedes).  Later I will share about how that lunch went and the way God continues to reveal things to us that we never would have known or even knew we wanted to know).  Anyway, she invited Julian to go to church with her the following week after we left, and he did. :)  We'll just keep watching to see how God continues to open more doors in his life.

I'd like to say that this trip was just great and filled with blessing at every turn, like it was last year.  However, it wasn't.  On many days, it was just hard.  Physically hard.  Spiritually hard.  Mentally hard.  And emotionally hard.  Julian has emotional needs that can drain you, and we spent a lot of our time trying to get him off of his computer or at least to take the headphones off, and to just come out of isolation.  He said he's always been that way, that he just likes to be alone and spend time alone, but that can be very hurtful on the other side, when you know the sacrifice you've made and are making just to spend time with him.  He didn't get that. He was incredibly stubborn in so many ways.   In hindsight, I wish we would have taken the computer away from the start, but we can't go back and change things now.  It wasn't until our last night with his brother that we broke out the UNGAME (a game that basically just makes you talk and get to know each other better) that we finally got him to start talking and coming out of his shell.  Suddenly we started learning more about what goes on inside of him, and so much came spilling out. (Good game for those of you adopting older children--it's amazing what you can learn.  I took the Spanish version with me, so that helped a lot). However, I'm so glad God gave me the opportunity to meet several of the Christians He's put in his life to continue to guide him and nurture him.  I'm so humbled that God gave us the opportunity to watch Him orchestrate putting someone back in his life who has loved him and still loves him probably more than I have, someone who has been there since he was just a little child. It's like He is releasing me from the burden that we're the only ones who are there to guide him into this next stage of life.  We left him in the arms of so many other Christians now, with more connections than he likely wanted, and we pulled the plug financially so he's forced to find his way (of course, we're not going to let him starve, but he doesn't know that).....God has given us a peace that He's got His hand on him, still, though.  I miss him, but I'm excited to see what God is going to do with his life now.  Now our focus is back on his little brother, but that will be for another post in the future, because I'm still trying to process it all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The places you'll go

 Well, we are home now, and let me tell you, coming down from the mountain is never easy.  So far, I'm not going to say it's been hard, it just feels very weird.  Good to be home, but not sure where to go or what to do next. (Especially since my bank account is not on speaking terms with me right now).  We've been going, going, going for 30 days straight, and now suddenly life has just stopped and all the whirlwind of activity has ceased.  I can hear this gentle whisper in my ear saying, "It's time to rest now and just take it all in."  So, I'm sitting out on my front porch trying to do just that.

I don't really know where to start to fill everyone in on our Colombian adventure, but I decided to break it into three categories....the places we went, the things we did, and the people we met.  So today I will briefly write about the main places that we went.

One of our first outtings was to take our new friends up to Montserrate, a place that I wrote about in my book.  It was a very monumental place in our journey to Colombia a year ago, and we were so thankful for the clear, blue skies so we could get an even better view of the incredible city below us and the amazing landscape on the other side. Last year we didn't spend any money in the little shops there, so this year we got a few little souvenirs to take home with us.
Our third weekend in Colombia, we had made plans with another family to take a little vacation from our vacation in a place called Villa de Leyva.  We were very excited and looking forward to getting out of the city for a few days.  However, at the last minute, our plans changed.  Our friends told us that a family from the school had decided to lend us a vacation house for the weekend in a small town near Anapoima.  All we knew was that it was in the "hot country" we'd heard about and that there was a pool.  We didn't have any idea what kind of sleeping or living arrangements this would mean since there were ten of us going, but we were just going to "go" with it.  The weekend came, and we met up with the group at 5:30 in the morning to embark on our 3 hour drive (or 3 hour tour).  The drive was basically just going down and around the mountain (around...and around...and around) until we'd reach an altitude much, much lower than Bogota (much closer to our own altitude in Dallas).  We finally got to a little town called Apulo, and we found ourselves driving down a little dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere.  Then we pulled up to a gate, gave them our names, and soon found ourselves driving up to a beautiful resort-like place that pretty much resembled paradise.  We each had our own private bedroom and bathroom that had windows and doors that opened up to the beautiful surroundings, we had a pool and a jacuzzi, a community kitchen and dining area, a community living/reading area, eight hammocks all around the place, and we felt like we were in something that you only see on "Survivor".  It was the most beautiful little place, tucked so neatly away with mountains surrounding it on all sides, a golf course to one side, a river to another side, and orange trees where we got up in the morning and were able to pick a fresh orange to eat for breakfast.  It truly was a gift that we will always remember and be grateful for.
Another unexpected "highlight" of our trip was to a very familiar place from our past, one that we nearly had memorized the address for but had never had the opportunity to come to in person.  Yet before we knew it, we found ourselves in the Bienestar Familiar office in the presence of a lawyer, a social worker, and a psychologist with our complete "unapproved" dossier on the table before us.  I've never shared this before on my blog, but our sweet "Juan's" second adoption opportunity did not ever go through.  For the last several months we have known that he was once again without the hope of a family, and his brother was convinced that he still belonged with us.  Very shortly before we left, we got in contact with a lawyer to find out if there was any possibility of getting his case reopened.  Before we knew it, he'd gotten us an appointment to meet the very men who had made the decision to not approve our first adoption attempt.  It was not an easy meeting at all, but by the end they saw that we were determined and united as a family in this desire, so they presented our case to the main lady over all of the adoptions, and we are waiting to see if this can legally be done.  What we are attempting has never been done before in Colombia, or so we've been told.  We are very aware that this is a completely different situation now, and that "Juan" has been through much more loss now that when we had met him years ago.  We are also aware of what the risks are to our own family unit because of the age difference between him and our only child.  I'm not going to say we are not nervous, but we also see that God has opened many doors before us that we never imagined being opened.  We are still waiting on a final response, but we were told that we will know soon.  If the door closes again, we are okay with it because it looks like we still may be granted an open place in his life again, no matter what.  We got to spend four days with him at the end of our trip, and we enjoyed every minute of having him back at our side.  I told him that I never thought I would see him again, to which he responded by putting his arm around me and saying, "I always knew we would see each other again some day." If the door does reopen, once again, we don't have a clue where the money will come from to go through the entire process again.  But we know that God is God, and if this was always His plan, nothing can stop it or thwart His plan.
Then there was the "not so great" highlight of our trip....to the dentist.  Mike woke up on Father's Day with incredible pain from a toothache.  We found out that he'd gotten an infection, so he was out for the count the entire day, while I was busy trying to contact anyone who could help.  Thankfully, the school takes amazing care of their missionaries, so we had the opposite problem.  Instead of not having any help, we had help coming from all directions.  We got an antibiotic over the counter at the pharmacy next door, and finally Mike found some relief.  Two days later, a dental assistant whose child was in my class checked Mike out in the morning and said that the tooth was pretty much beyond repair.  She said she could perform a root canal and do a crown, but she wanted to be honest that the crown would not last and it was not a wise use of money or time.  She suggested just having the whole tooth pulled.  Mike called his dentist at home, and he agreed that pulling it was likely the best thing to do.  So, the next day, we headed out after school to the dentist's office so he could get his tooth pulled.  A new translating experience for me!  Thankfully, Mike recovered quickly, though it wasn't exactly the highlight of his trip.
The main place that we went every Tuesday through Friday in the mornings was El Camino Academy.  We found this school to be amazing, mostly because of the network of support that you find when you serve there.  We took a bus to the school each morning at about 7:30, worked from 8:00 to 12:30 every day, had lunch at the school, and then went home between 1:00 and 2:00 every day.  I taught a class of 4-6 year olds, Mike helped out with painting (not his favorite thing to do, but they sure appreciated his work), and David got to help with the gym classes, using his very natural athletic abilities and passions.  Julian came with us twice a week and helped me out however I needed.  Being able to work at the school gave us some sort of life and routine to model to Julian, it gave us a chance to raise some financial support for our trip, and it gave us an amazing network of support and family.  We will really miss everyone we met and had the opportunity to work with, and we look forward to planning our trip back next summer to work with many of them again.
David's favorite part of the trip was the place we found last year where he could ride the go-carts.  They go much faster than any go-carts around here, and they're really not that awfully expensive.  We took Julian and another friend one day, and then we went back again to take "Juan".  I think it will be a yearly thing, something that David will always expect.  Of course we went to many other places, as well, including a nearby town called Chia, three different churches, the house where Julian has lived since he got out of the orphanage, the mall across the bridge, a good Mexican restaurant, our favorite little bakery, etc., and we were invited to have dinner with several different missionaries and families.  But these few places were the main places that we will always remember.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Following the yellow brick road

Have you ever felt like Dorothy, following steps on a yellow brick road, not really sure where they're going, but knowing you just need to follow the path?  That's what the last month (or maybe four years) has been like for us.  We never know where the next step is going to be until right before it's illuminated before us, and we have no idea where the next step after that will be or where it will lead.  We just have known that it was the next step that needed to be taken.  We agreed to let God be our guide, and He's taken us places we never imagined we would go or would ever have been able to go on our own.  We've met the most amazing people here and have had such an incredible experience.  So incredible and amazing that I don't even know where to start.  I have so much to process over the last month...these 30 days in Colombia are going to take me a long time to really reflect over and take in fully.  Life has been so full, busy, and incredibly complicated since we've been here that there was no way I could have even been able to blog about it each day or even each week.  We thought we came here with two agendas--to teach and serve at the Christian school and to just be a family to Julian again.  Little did we know that God sent us here with many more agendas than that.  It has been fun, exciting, amazing, humbling, rewarding, scary, confusing, frustrating, tiring, expensive, and to be honest, very hard to be here. I think we were all ready to go home about a week ago. However, we are now being blessed by ending our trip with the gift of being reunited for the weekend with a precious little guy who we always wondered if we'd ever be able to see again (Julian's little brother, our very beloved "Juan"--or so he was named in my book).  I knew I still loved him and would always love him, I just forgot how much and how deep that love ran through me.  To have him here by my side, to hug him each morning and night (and all day long), and to hear him say how much he's loved and missed me after all this time is absolutely priceless.  To see both brothers together enjoying each other's company in the presence of a family just melts my heart.  To sit in a room with them and wonder how in the world we got here is so incredibly humbling.  These are three days that I will cherish in my heart forever.  Who knows what's next after this or where the next yellow brick will lead.  We have met an amazing Christian lawyer who is working through all the legalities of this renewed relationship for us.  I'm just cherishing the brick we're on today because it truly is a gift when you let something go that is so close to your heart, and then God miraculously gives it back.

Looking forward to one last memorable day with our special guy, lunch with the woman who introduced both boys to Christ as young children so we can get Julian reconnected with her, packing and cleaning tomorrow, and then having our last dinner tomorrow night with our friends here who are from our own church family back home.  Then we'll officially be heading home just in time to watch the fireworks.  I'm ready to be home, but I have so, so, so many mixed emotions.  We're already talking about booking our tickets for next year as soon as possible.  I think we've found our home away from home.