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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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time to dream: My 12 wishes for the next year (A Colombian tradition)

Dinner and all the fixings are made for the evening, including a special Colombian fruit drink and our little cups of 12 grapes to eat at midnight. According to Colombian tradition, we are supposed to make a wish for every grape. David and I sat down to write out our twelve wishes this morning so we are ready for tonight. All I said was that they have to be realistic.  They are not necessarily plans or even goals, just wishes of things we'd like to see happen in the coming year if money, time (and God) permit.

  1. To see my sons grow closer to God. They are both at completely different levels spiritually, so  I just hope to see growth in each of them.
  2. To connect more deeply with my husband.
  3. To travel back to Colombia for a week or so to see Julian, Mercedes and Zayde's family. (You can read all about them when the second book comes out.)
  4. To take advantage of our RV to camp several times in different Texas locations, including once to San Antonio and at least once to a beach. David has never been to a beach before.
  5. To travel to Pennsylvania to see my brother's family for the first time in over five years, as well as to show Juan David where I came from.
  6. To teach another Bible study if my schedule will allow it.
  7. To see both books published.
  8. To memorize 24 verses for Beth Moore's Living Proof challenge. Two verses a month, starting tomorrow! (Those who complete the challenge are invited to a special retreat in Houston in January of 2016.  So thankful for a Bible study friend sharing her experience doing this before and encouraging us to join in this year.)
  9. To stay active and continue eating healthy--eating foods that love you back!
  10. To give back/pay it forward out of gratefulness for how others have blessed me.
  11. To see and stay more connected with my family. My parents. My brothers. My in-laws. My nieces and nephews. My cousins. My aunts and uncles. My Grandmas.
  12. To live with gratitude instead of constant comparison or anxiety. (This one is big for me because I can let anxiety eat me alive if I am not careful.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time to celebrate: Fourteen blessings of 2014

When you start focusing on gratitude, your whole mentality changes. You start each day feeling blessed. I will have to say that as I look back over this last year, I feel overwhelmingly blessed.  Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Juan David seems more attached to this family every day. He feels at home here. He respects the limits more than we thought he would. He stopped trying to "be" his age and seems more content to just experience life. He still makes some odd and extremely immature decisions on a daily basis, but I've seen so much progress over the last six months.
  2. Our boys are fully active and engaged in the youth program at church. Our new youth pastor came in with a completely different vision and has a huge heart to develop spiritual leaders within the youth.  He's a country kind-of guy, so Mike relates to him quite well, too. He separated the middle school and high school programs in order to focus more on what each group needs, and he started a new program called Elevate just for the high school kids on Sunday evenings (once a month in a corporate setting, once a month in a small home group just for their gender) that Juan David really looks forward to.  David said he likes the middle school group a lot better now, too, since it is not mixed. They both still go to class together, though, on Saturday evenings, which I love. David participated in a local summer mission trip last year, Juan David went on a high school retreat that really tugged on his heart spiritually, and both boys attended camp for a week. It is a blessing to see both boys develop such a neat relationship with their youth pastor.
  3. I am working with a publisher to get both my books out, one who is also a good friend and has a heart to publish books as a ministry. I have been able to work with an editor to polish up my writing, and I got to attend their first annual Christmas party for their staff and their authors. I consider it an honor to work with them, and I look forward to ways I can give back to their ministry. Though I've taken a step back from Bible study, God reminded me that my writing is my ministry for right now. I want both books to point the reader straight to Christ in a more intimate way.
  4. We were blessed financially through the Adoption Tax Credit. Once we finally got Juan David's certificate of citizenship so we could complete our taxes, we received enough of a refund to make a lot of needed home repairs, take a few needed camping trips, redo both boys' rooms, and start a small college fund for Juan David. 
  5. God gave us an RV. After buying a small RV from a previous coworker of Mike's, we returned home from our second trip absolutely devastated after watching an uninsured driver run into us from behind and destroy our little dream.  After a month of struggling through the emotions of the loss, the insurance company surprised us by covering all of the damages and giving us a check for double what we paid for it.  With that money, we found a newer RV that provides twice as much space inside.  Now we can take friends and family with us camping, plus we have the extra space for people to sleep in when guests come to visit our little home.
  6. We love our home group (growth group). Though our group is down to just two couples now (us and them), we are so blessed by this relationship. They love on us and our boys like we are family, they pray for us, and they are always there in a time of need. We are much younger than them and in a completely different stage of life, so we benefit greatly from their wisdom and experience. I honestly don't know where we'd be without them in our lives.
  7. I absolutely love teaching PreK. Every weekend and week night, I am constantly reminded of the blessing that a PreK classroom brought to my home life. I don't take school home. I don't grade papers at home. I don't work on lesson plans at home. Every once in a while, I might work on something at home because my time is too cramped at school, but for the most part, I am able to completely separate my work and home life. Plus, those sweet faces light up my world every day and bring me incredible joy. Now that I'm in my second year in this grade, I am able to plan my time and my lessons more wisely in order to prepare them better for kindergarten.
  8. We got to spend a week connecting with lots of friends and family over spring break. It was expensive and came before Mike's bonus check even hit our bank, but it was so worth it.  We spent time with Mike's parents, Mike's brothers and their families, his grandma and his aunt and uncle (an uncle we sadly and unexpectedly lost on Thanksgiving Day).  We reconnected with old friends, spent a day with my parents, and got to visit my Grandpa for his 90th birthday (who we also lost the day before Thanksgiving). Plus the boys got to play in a ton of snow.  That trip marks a big highlight to our year, one that we are so thankful we took. No regrets.
  9. Soccer. Yes, I did say soccer. I am so glad that both boys share the same interest and passion for the sport (though Juan David is a bit more of a fanatic). The sport keeps me running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but it's so good for both of them. They have had a consistent coach in their life that they look up to, plus they've had consistent relationships with their teammates. We, too, have developed some positive relationships with other parents on both teams. The exercise and teamwork is an added benefit, as well. Now Juan David is playing for his high school, too, so that helps keep him disciplined and focused.
  10. Gratitude. It changed my whole outlook. There is always something to complain about or be negative about, everywhere you go. At work. At home. At church. At the soccer field. At the grocery store. In traffic. Etc. But there's always way more to be thankful for if we just take the time to count our blessings. My gratitude journal started 137 days ago with one blessing a day. I turned it into three a day, which led to four or five a day, which now can be up to a half a page a day or more of things I am thankful for. My anxiety level lowered drastically and I actually sleep better now, too.
  11. A summer Bible study on prayer. I pulled back during the school year, but I poured all my energy into a study in the summer. What an absolute blessing those ladies became to me.  I am absolutely passionate about prayer, and it touched my heart to see their eyes light up when they started praying God's Word over their lives.
  12. A writer's group. They inspire me and challenge me. They encourage me. I love writing, and I love growing as a writer. They are also my guinea pigs when I write about deeper spiritual issues, and I am extra blessed when my writing touches them on a deep level. 
  13. A finished product. So, this one is more for Mike than for me. He took a whole bunch of "junk trucks", piece by piece, to build his own masterpiece to play in the mud with. I give him a hard time about his hobby way too often because it's so foreign to me, but I have to say that I am quite impressed with his mechanical and creative abilities. My goal is to tell him that more.
  14. Two special road trips with Mike.  One for a wedding in Mexico and one for my grandfather's funeral. Neither of which we could have pulled off without the help and support of our friends and family to help with the boys.  We don't have grandparents living nearby to keep them when we're in a bind, but we're so thankful that we have a "family" at church that is always willing to help out. (Plus we're thankful to have Matt and Angie living close by.) Both trips meant a lot to Mike and I to have some quality time together. 
I could go on and on.  As I look back over the year, I see over and over how much God blessed us. Sometimes with material things, sometimes financially, sometimes with new opportunities, but more often than not, through relationships that He's put into our lives. They are what matter most.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A time to reflect: Fourteen struggles of 2014

This year divided itself in half, as the first half marked the end of our first year as a new family while the second half marked the beginning of our second year. We had a year of firsts and now we are experiencing a year of seconds. For the record, the year of seconds has been much more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Here were some of our defining struggles over the last year, though we experienced many more:

  1. Spreading ourselves too thin. We never had a second child before, so we learned through trial and error about what activities we could handle and what we couldn't. We had to learn how to be intentional with our time, knowing what mattered most and what had to go. The calendar became my best friend (time management) and my worst enemy (not enough margin at times).
  2. Getting through the wall of arrogance. I thought it was a typical teenage thing. What sixteen year old boy is not arrogant? Until we finally started to see that little boy trapped on the other side of the wall. He wore all that arrogance as a mask to keep from looking or feeling vulnerable.  He didn't want to admit he had things to learn. All the changes in language and culture (and daily life in a family) completely overwhelmed him, so he acted like he already knew everything he needed to know and refused to let anyone know he needed help. Thankfully, time passed and the wall did eventually start to come down. Patience. Patience. Patience.
  3. Truck theft. Talk about a scary, vulnerable experience! I'll never forget reading that text from Mike around 3:00 in the afternoon saying, "Call me. My truck just got stolen!" A huge red F350 pick-up stolen in broad daylight in a busy parking lot. Thankfully, we got the truck back, but not without a fair share of damage and loss.
  4. Trying to manage a budget well. Like I said, we never had a second child before, nor have we ever had a teenager. Now we have two. We had to learn how to budget for two (double soccer uniforms, shoes, clothes, birthdays, registrations, camps, events). Not to mention that my grocery bill about doubled by just adding one person who could eat forever and still not feel full. When I thought I got a better handle on projecting an actual budget, unexpected youth events or soccer events seemed to come out of nowhere that threw my carefully planned budget out of whack. Stuff that we didn't foresee because even David entered into a new age group.  Thankfully we have still maintained a debt free lifestyle and have faithfully tithed and saved at least some for college. I haven't left much of a margin in the rest of our spending, though. I hope to be able to plan better financially this coming year now that I know what expenses loom ahead.
  5. Taking a step back from teaching Bible study. Okay, so this one is my own personal struggle. I absolutely love teaching Bible study. I love connecting with other women, sharing with them on a deep level, digging into the Word together, and inspiring others to take their relationship with Christ to a deeper level. This year held so much change and extra responsibility for me that I had to take a step back during the school year. I miss it. A lot. But I know that I couldn't give it the time or energy (or passion) that I needed to if I didn't take time to rest and recover from all the stress that our entire adoption journey created in me. I am so thankful for the two ladies who stepped up to lead studies this year, showing me that God prepared them for such a time as this.
  6. Getting through the language barrier. I always wanted a bilingual home for as long as I can remember. But having a child who refused to speak English really took a toll on all of us. I am more than thankful for the opportunity to send that child to camp in Colorado for a week in June. He came home speaking a ton of English and hasn't stopped since! What a difference it made in our home. 
  7. Teaching a sixteen/seventeen-year-old the concept of dependence on a parent. That boy wanted nothing more than to be trusted and given the same independence as his peers. He lived under so much structure in an orphanage that he could only dream of being independent some day. We held back, and we still hold back. We knew that he needed the security of a family first. He needed to learn how to depend on a parent to take care of his needs, whether he was old enough to take care of himself or not.  We met a lot of resistance for the entire first year. Now we are finally seeing the benefits of holding back that independence he so desired. 
  8. Losing our new home on wheels.  I finally started to relax by our second camping trip this summer.  I still could hardly believe we actually owned a small RV. I looked forward to many more family trips and even weekends away with my husband. I felt so blessed, until the car behind us plowed right into the back of the camper, scattering my slippers and bedding all over the highway. A totaled mess, an uninsured driver, and no coverage of our own for the camper. I struggled immensely over the loss, angry at God for letting it happen and not understanding why He took it away.  When I finally learned to say, "I trust You, Jesus, to work Your good into this situation," we ended up doubly blessed with more than we could have imagined.
  9. Watching my little boy turn into a teenager. Enough said.
  10. Lots and lots of house repairs. New floor. New ceiling in one room. New laundry room. New washer and dryer. New gate. AC issues. Leakage issues. Plus lots of other issues we didn't even touch yet.
  11. Finding time to stay connected as a couple. This goes with the first struggle listed about stretching ourselves too thin at times, not knowing how to plan a life we're not quite accustomed to yet. Since I took a step back from Bible study for this semester, we will aim to reconnect through a ReEngage program offered at church that I've heard so many wonderful things about from friends at the Rockwall campus.
  12. Taking back control of our health. This, too, may apply more to me. Too much stress caused my body and hormones to go haywire.  Just six months ago, a personal trainer from the gym asked me how I wanted to gauge my success. I said when I don't feel so tired anymore. Between changing my eating habits, getting more active, taking Plexus, and refocusing my thoughts on gratitude rather than on negativity, I truly feel like a different person now six months later.  I still have a lot to work on, but now I have the energy and motivation to keep going. 
  13. Missing my parents at Thanksgving. So thankful to be able to spend time with them for Christmas, though.
  14. Losing my Grandpa and one of Mike's uncles within a day of each other. We are so blessed to know without a doubt that they are both in Heaven today.
All struggles, but many of them turned into blessings. However, tomorrow I will share fourteen specific blessings that may or may not stem from these hardships.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflect, Celebrate, Dream and Look ahead

I'm going to break the next three or four blogs into categories over the next few days to end the year and start a new one.  I just read a short e-book on the importance of reflecting and celebrating the last year before making goals for the coming year.  So my blog posts will be the following: Fourteen struggles of 2014 (Reflect), Fourteen blessings of 2014 (Celebrate), 12 wishes for next year/A Colombian tradition (Dream), A goal for the new year (Look ahead). I am looking forward to a week off with the boys to just hang out and to actually have time to write!

Almost every blog will be adoption related somehow because I really want this blog to be an encouragement to other adoptive moms and families.

Stay tuned....

Here are a few traditions I found on another website, Casa Hispana, that we might try to incorporate into our New Year's Eve celebration at home. I've got the grapes ready to go, and I think I like the idea of cleaning the house to start the new year.  Juan David said he didn't want any yellow underwear, but he told me I'd be amazed at all the vendors everywhere selling yellow underwear this week. I think running around the block with a suitcase would be fun, but I doubt we'll get much further than eating our grapes.  I've got a special Colombian fruit drink that I plan to make for the evening, as well.

New Year’s Eve Colombian style: Good luck traditions!

Running around the block will ensure future travel and adventure!By rubyblossom.
Running around the block will ensure future travel and adventure!
By rubyblossom.
Every hispanic country has its traditions and superstitions. In Colombia, they have plenty to fall back on if any of the good luck rituals fail!
Good luck traditions: 
Twelve grapes. This is also practiced in Spain. At the stoke of  twelve you need to stuff a grape at every chime! The twelve grapes represent the months of the year. It is said you can make a wish for every grape. Be quick though, and write your wishes down in advance. You must finish eating the grapes by the last chime for the good luck to kick in!
In Spain, some add a third grape. If all else fails you have that last 13th!
Yellow Underwear As in Mexico, wearing yellow underwear will attract money!!!
Shafts of Wheat. Placing 12 shafts of wheat in your dining room will bring more food to the table, i.e: money again.
Run around the block with a suitcase! After the clock strikes 12, you must run around the block with an empty suitcase. This will ensure future travel and adventures. This one can be a little dangerous though! But if practiced in a safe neighborhood you’ll be fine. A backpack might do the job, easier to flee from a mugger!
Starting out on the right foot flamingo style! At the stroke of twelve, make sure your right foot is firmly planted!
Hold money! Be sure to be holding money at midnight! Any amount will do. Again, money!
Burn the old year!  Make a statuette of the old year. If you can find safe fireworks, tie the statuette to the fireworks and blow the old year up, setting it on fire at twelve!  Some people tie pieces of paper where they write their defects. A symbolic way to try to get rid of them.
Sweep the bad energy out!By YanivG
Sweep the bad energy out!
By YanivG
Sweep the dirt out.  Clean your home on New Year’s Eve and do away with the dirt by sweeping it out your front door. This will rid you of any bad energy. Keep some dirt to throw out the door at midnight. It doubles your chances of a clean sweep!
Eat LentilsMany hispanic countries follow this tradition. It ensures a year of plenty.
And how about love? Well, we have red panties or boxers to attract love in Spain and Mexico. Make sure you wear them brand new too! You never know! This will bring in more love into your life or consolidate what you already have, if that is what you want…
And of course! Drink and dance the night away!
¡Felíz año nuevo!

I thought about cropping the feet out, but I decided to leave it as is because it truly captures the spirit of that day.  It will always be the Christmas that the boys got to go swimming!
Angie Liedkie Kloppmann's photo.
Great big family pic, just missing my brother Jonathan and his family.

A different kind of Christmas

We had a different kind of Christmas this year, one I will cherish for many years. Though we originally planned to drive up to St. Louis to spend Christmas with my parents for the first time in a long time, they ended up coming down to Texas since they didn't make it at Thanksgiving.  I know it made their normal quiet Christmas a bit more hectic for them, but we all sure enjoyed having them here.  Not only did we all attend the Christmas Eve service together (my family, my parents, and my brother's family), but they got to spend Christmas with both of our families to experience our own family traditions.

Speaking of tradition, I don't know that I've ever really thought about our traditions until this year. My main tradition for Christmas has always been to just keep it simple.  Simple decorations. Simple activities. Simple gifts.  We always open our gifts on Christmas Eve after attending church together, making it a quiet evening at home together.  Then we sleep in Christmas morning and just enjoy a quiet morning/day together.  Back in Indiana, we hopped from one family gathering to another since all of Mike's family lived there.  Here in Texas, we join up with my brother's family for a dessert in the afternoon, but that's about it. 

This year my parents joined us for a quiet little Christmas Eve at home, watching the boys open up their presents and even opening a few for them.  I read about the religious history behind a few Christmas traditions (like why we put lights on the tree and outside the house), and we kept a fire going strong in the fireplace. 

Juan David especially likes that we have the tradition of opening up our presents on Christmas Eve because that's how they do it in Colombia, too.  I had all intentions of trying to add in a bit of Colombian tradition to our Christmas, but it just didn't happen. I will try to incorporate a few Colombian traditions to New Year's, I guess. 

My parents got up early Christmas morning to join my brother's family for their own gift-giving traditions, and then we all got together for a big Christmas dinner in the early afternoon.  To add to the fun, my brother heated up his brand new pool, so the boys all swam for hours! I enjoyed every bit of the day and am so thankful for the chance to celebrate with lots of family this year. 

I especially love watching Juan David embrace our family traditions as his own.  Last year he enjoyed everything we did, though he constantly compared it to all he ever knew in Colombia, almost in a defensive way. This year he opened up more about both the positives and negatives of his life in Colombia, showing much more appreciation and gratitude for being part of a family.  We tried our best to connect with Julian during the day, but we only talked with him very briefly on Facebook.  I at least sent him pictures of his brother to let him know we still think about him all the time.  I hope some day he might be able to join us for Christmas here.

Christmas Eve service

Christmas Day activity
Family photos (notice the variety of attire and foot coverings)

Family photo with the grandparents
Matt's family with the grandparents
Me and Mom
We have moved from identical gifts to similar gifts (Dog lover and Cat lover mugs)
(They didn't take long to put on their new soccer jerseys! FC Dallas and Colombia)
A gift from Dad
A Colombia/US picture frame that I painted for Juan David
 Juan David's gift to David
Juan's smallest, but very meaningful gift
A keychain linking both the U.S. and the Colombian flag together, representing his dual citizenship of both countries.  A gift I couldn't resist once I saw it.
Now I'm off to the store to start making preparations for the New Year celebration at our home, trying to combine both cultures a little better than we did for Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

High school soccer

"You are now officially part of the Naaman Forest soccer family." Quite a different response than at the parent meeting for high school football.

There were no tryouts for football. If you showed up, they put you on the JV team. Juan David didn't know anything about football, but he gave it a try, anyway, to get himself ready for soccer tryouts in December. He had his tryouts while we were in Illinois, and on Thursday morning he sent me a text at school to say he made the team! He was super excited, and so proud of himself.

"Mom, I am so happy with myself that I want to have a party!" Funny boy. We took him out to Chick Fil-A instead.

So now we have a very happy boy at home, plus we are thankful he's back on a strict practice schedule every day after school (which requires no running around for us) and an extra motivation to keep his grades up. The soccer coach seems like a great guy, and we felt very welcomed "to the soccer family" at his high school. His games start in less than a month, and I look forward to cheering him on.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


So, we walked in the house after returning from Illinois just about the time our friend dropped the boys off back at home. Juan David gave me a hug, and I said, "I missed you."  He said, "I missed you, too, Mom." (Really? Did he just say that?)

Then he said, "It feels so good to be home."

That's some definite progress. I'm so glad he knows he's really home here.

Anticipating Heaven

Life if full, all the time, with two teenage boys. I have a love/hate relationship with the calendar.  It helps to keep me sane and know how to budget my time, and I love to write down fun things we plan to do together. On the other hand, I hate watching each day slip by, wondering if I enjoyed each moment as much as I anticipated it.  

Then every once in a while, things happen that throw a curve ball into our plans, and the calendar immediately changes. Unscheduled meetings, emergency doctor visits, or funerals you hoped to not see for several more years.

When my mom told me my Grandpa asked for prayers to meet Jesus soon, I struggled being so far away. I wanted to go see him, to tell him goodbye, and to tell him what he's always meant to me. Instead, I wrote it down for someone to read to him, and I prayed for Jesus to take him home peacefully and painlessly.

When I got the news he went to Heaven, I didn't quite know how to feel. Sad? Relieved? Grief-stricken? Joyful? I guess I felt a bit of them all. I struggled to decide whether or not to make the trip to Peoria to attend his funeral. I was afraid if I didn't go, I might regret my decision for the rest of my life, always wishing I had gone. More than anything, I wanted to give my Grandma a hug. I knew I could only do that in person, so I prayed for wisdom to know how to make the trip affordable.  Mike agreed to take a few days off of work to make the long drive with me, our friends didn't even hesitate to take care of the boys, and I found two good subs. for my class very quickly.

I am so glad we went.

First, I got to give that hug to this beautiful lady, my sweet Grandma. She's the main reason I wanted to go. I have this picture on my phone now, and I pray for her every time I look at it.

I loved hearing the three tributes to my Grandpa, all three stating the same thing seen from a different perspective. My Grandpa loved Jesus with everything in him. I'm sure it was harder on those who lived day in and out with him, but for me, I really saw his funeral as a celebration of his life. I felt like the main message said, "He leaves us a legacy of faith in Christ. Now take the baton (the Word of God) and go forward into the next generation."

I also greatly enjoyed seeing and reconnecting with my "long lost" cousins whom I hadn't seen in over 15 years. What a blessing to spend a day with them. It's amazing how years can pass, yet you can pick up right where you left off.

Here's another one with my only male cousin on that side of the family. I don't remember seeing him since he was a kid!

My mom and her brothers. One drove from Colorado, just an hour longer than our own drive.

And then the spouses, too (my dad and my aunts).

Who knows when we will all find ourselves in the same place again. I wish it could have been under a different circumstance, but at the same time, I could never wish for my Grandpa to leave Heaven now that he finally made it there.

We went back to his house for a few hours after the funeral to spend a little more time together before everyone headed in different directions. My aunt made a pot of coffee, and Mike brought me out a cup in this mug. 

I love you, Grandpa, and I look forward to spending eternity with you in Heaven. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Heritage of Faith

A heritage of faith

To live is Christ,
to die is gain.
To live for anything else
would mean to die in vain.
When I leave this world behind
What will others say of me?
Will my life even compare
To my grandpa’s legacy?
A life lived on purpose
A man of fervent prayer
So captivated and compelled
To share Christ everywhere.
He loved his family deeply,
and he knew what mattered most.
He lived every day for Jesus,
his one and only boast.
Today he celebrates in Heaven,
face to face with his Lord.
He gave his life to Christ
and now gained his reward.
I already miss him dearly,
but I’m so grateful to claim
the heritage of faith

that he leaves behind his name.

Philippians 1:21
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

I want to live like that. (Sidewalk Prophets)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Making each day count

This last week didn't look anything like I'd planned or envisioned. In fact, I anticipated a week with my parents here for Thanksgiving, grocery shopping and cooking with my mom, a big feast at my brother's house, Black Friday shopping with my mom, a yearly lunch date with my mom, Kloppmann Christmas (an early Christmas with my parents and my brother's family), a week of cousin fun while we hung out with my brother's family, and maybe a little Christmas decorating at the end of the week. Plus I had the whole week off for the first time this year!

Then my mom called Sunday morning with the news none of us wanted to hear, that my Grandpa's health was declining fast and that he said he was ready to go to be with Jesus. As my uncle stated, he was ready to be with the one Person he loved more dearly than his wife and family.

That phone call changed the whole course of the week, my parents spent time with my Grandpa in his final days instead of coming here, and now the family is making plans for the funeral of a man who touched more lives for Christ than he ever could have known on this side of Heaven.

The rest of the week felt so awkward. Thanksgiving felt incomplete. The day after even stranger, since I'm used to always spending that day with my mom. This time I spent it with Juan David, and then we enjoyed our own family time with the boys for the rest of the day at Six Flags Holiday in the Park (so thankful we got those season passes for the boys!) We all four worked together to decorate the house for Christmas on Saturday, and I bought the boys a Gingerbread house kit after Juan David told me he'd never made one before.  I also finished up all my edits for the revision of my first book, which they told me should be published in February!

David only met my Grandpa a few times in his life, and Juan David met him once. They sympathized with us in our grief, but they couldn't share that grief. I tried to make the week fun for them, though I often found myself with thoughts wandering and tears welling up in my eyes, thinking of the rest of my family and remembering my Grandpa.

Here are some pictures of memories we created, despite the change in plans and the sadness we feel.

Picnic lunch at the park
One of our many roller coaster rides for the day

Thanksgiving. Missing my mom's additions to our plates. :(
Juan David and Uncle Matt (Realizing the family this boy gained still brings tears to my eyes.)
A quick pic by the tree in the park

Juan David's first gingerbread house experience

The whole reason for the season--Jesus

My prayer corner now holds my favorite Christmas decorations, my Jesus tree and a nativity. This morning I took a good long look at my little nativity and my ornaments that say so many different names of Jesus.  I looked at that little baby in the manger, the baby born to die, and I thanked Him for being each and every name on that tree. Then I realized, my grandpa finally got to meet that precious little baby in the manger, face to face, and thank Him, face to face, for being all those names to him in a personal way. I'm sad for us to lose him, but I'm so, so happy for him. What a privilege to be in the presence of Jesus.

Christmas just took on a whole new meaning for me. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reflecting over a great example

I am sitting at home this morning with a heavy heart, tears in my eyes, Thanksgiving plans overturned, reflecting over one of the greatest blessings in my life. My grandfather.  He currently is living out his last days on this earth, and I am overjoyed that he will soon be in the presence of Jesus. I am, on the other hand, incredibly sad to be losing him.

His passion to live for Christ above all has inspired me since my childhood.  I remember writing a paper in elementary school about how much I admired him.  I still do.

I have not been the greatest at keeping in touch. I am a person of very few words on the telephone, I rarely use Skype, I don't have Facetime on my phone.  I got to see him for his 90th birthday last March, which happened to be the first I'd seen him in about ten years. The first I'd been back to his house in nearly twenty years.  I write on here often, though, and he's gotten every blog entry I've written over the last seven years.  I hope I've made him proud.

My grandfather is a pillar of faith for my family, and he taught me years ago to lay my family down in prayer every single morning before I do anything else. He taught me the importance of prayer through his example, as I, myself, have coveted his prayers each and every morning, especially during difficult seasons of my life. He prayed me through marital struggles, financial struggles, through grieving the loss of Juan David and his sister, through our journey to meet Julian, and through our fight to finally bring Juan David home.  He is leaving a legacy of faith for his family, and I commit to carry it on through his example of daily prayer.

Thank you, Grandpa, for everything you've taught me by your example, even across so many miles. I love you dearly and will miss you more than words can say.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

100 Happy Days

I don't know if you remember, but I went through quite a slump this last summer.  I think it started when the camper got smashed and the AC leaked all over our new floor. One negative thing led to another, and before I knew it, I found myself griping and complaining about everything.  My husband quickly grew tired of my negativity, as did the rest of my family.  I grew tired of myself, too.

Then I read a post on Facebook about a friend who challenged herself to a goal of living 100 happy days.  I thought I'd give it a try.  So, in mid-August, I opened up an old journal and started Day 1. Each day's entry began with the words, "Today I am happy because . . . ".

After about a week or so of writing something that made me happy each day, I felt awkward about the word happy, so I changed it to what I felt thankful for. It became my gratitude journal. I couldn't believe what a difference it made in me to start my day out being thankful. One thing each day led to two or three things each day, and now I find myself writing nearly a paragraph each day about what I'm grateful for.

Today I finally reached my 100th day. I have no intentions of stopping, though, and I encourage anyone in a slump to start their own gratitude journal.  I start my day thankful, and then I notice more and more things to be thankful for all day.

What a difference from that negative mindset that captivated me late this summer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Yep. It's official now, and I'm a bit disturbed at the thought. With David turning 13 years old today, I now am officially a mom of two teenage boys. Pray for me.

Pray for me to start the process of letting go of my little boy, letting him go through some awkward phases as he begins his search for self, letting him pull away a little bit more each year that passes.

Pray for me to remember myself at that age (that's a scary thought in itself) so I can handle the inevitable trials with grace, patience, and compassion.

Pray for me to keep fighting for his heart every day, teaching him how to give it to God before anyone else.

Pray for me to never stop praying for him. To not let a single day go by that I don't pray for him and with him.

For all of these boys, for that matter.  I can't imagine life without any of them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Silence and solitude. Ahhhhhhh.

My favorite way to recharge my batteries. At this moment, I am actually sitting in an absolutely silent house, other than the sound of a crackling of the fire behind me. I braced myself all day to brave the suddenly cold temps this evening, despite an already sore throat,  in order to watch my boys' soccer games. Instead, Mike volunteered to go and started a fire in the fireplace before he left so I could relax. Yes, he's a keeper.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Garland Cup Tournament

Both my boys played in a big tournament this weekend, making our day long and full yesterday. Though the calendar had it starting on Wednesday, the rain pushed their Wednesday games into Saturday, giving them five games total between the two of them yesterday.  

The first game started at 9:15 in the morning, and the last game ended at 7:15 in the evening. Thankfully David's team had a little cookout between games, so that kept us from having to try to squeeze in a quick lunch somewhere.  

David's team lost their first game, then Juan's team lost their first game. After stuffing themselves with hamburgers and hotdogs and cake, David's team played again and tied.  By his third game, they pushed hard, but they couldn't pull off a win. David did finally score a really nice goal, though, so he had something to be proud of.  They did not advance in the tournament, though.

After that, Juan's team played their second game at six o'clock. I don't know if David's coach put some special potion in those burgers at lunch, but Juan played with incredible inspiration and scored three goals! Several players congratulated him on his "hat trick", so we had to explain to him what that meant. :) It was definitely his best game all season, perhaps out of all three seasons so far. 

His team advanced to the final game today, but they ended up losing 0-1. There were only three teams in his division, so they still took home the second place medals. It's the first out of all three seasons that they didn't this particular tournament, but they still have three more games left in their regular season to be excited about.  David's team has two more games left in the regular season, as well. 

These last few Saturdays have been fun, but they are wearing me out!

Next Saturday we will be camping for David's birthday, enjoying our lovely RV that God literally gave to us. I am looking forward to actually relaxing for a change.

Love Worth Fighting For

I felt so blessed this last Friday evening to be part of the Love Worth Fighting For Marriage and Parenting event. Both Kirk and Chelsea Cameron spoke at the event, and Warren Barfield (I think that's his last name) sang for us.  I remember watching both Kirk and Chelsea on Growing Pains back in the 80's, and I always thought it was cool that #1-both of them were Christians and #2--they were married in real life.  I appreciated hearing them both speak so transparently about the ups and downs of marriage and about their struggles as parents.  They adopted their first four children, who are all teenagers now.  I loved how Chelsea spoke so authentically about the challenges of parenting and the grace they need to show their children each and every day.  She reminded me how much more I need to smile at my boys.

Marriages don't fail, people just fail at marriage. Our spouse is worth fighting for, and it was a good reminder to really step back to evaluate just what we end up fighting for every day.

Our kids are also worth fighting for. But it's more important to fight for their heart and their relationship with Christ than absolutely anything else.  If our own relationship with Christ is not what it should be, then we will not have the power or the strength to fight for it in our children's lives.

Some events come and go, and the messages stick for a short while before fading into the background. This event touched me and will be one of those messages that will stick with me for a long time.

What an honor to have two people from one of my favorite sitcoms of the 80's come to my church to talk "real" about their relationships with Christ and to pray with and for us.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

One special day

Happy birthday to my Latin American son, Juan David Alspaugh. I hope he felt as special as we intended to make him feel today. He is one very cherished child, by his family here AND his family still in Colombia.

Several moments absolutely touched my heart today as his mother. If you've read my book (or even my blog entry from this date last year), you know the heartache that this particular week once held for both him and us. It happened to be the week they told him he could no longer have contact with me, and his birthday happened to be the last time they let him talk to me on the phone. It's a week that could still carry that same heartache, but now it's a week to cherish each year that it comes around.

Today I took him out for a "birthday cake sundae" after school, and we talked about that fateful day five years ago. We both remembered those last two phone conversations very clearly. Then we said, "But, hey, look at us now! We're together, eating ice cream, on your birthday." 

I also started communicating with Julian early in the morning to arrange a time for him to communicate with Juan David in the evening. It warmed my heart to listen to him talk to his brother on the phone and to hear him talk to Mercedes. 

I hope he felt loved and cherished.

(Right before heading off to school, after Mom made a special birthday breakfast).

(Getting ready to eat a home made birthday dessert/cookie cake).

(A special phone call from Colombia from Julian and Mercedes)

We also met with his counselor at school today to discuss his current (and very unique) academic situation. He had to enroll in the newcomer program last year as a freshman, but he didn't get full credit for his classes. So he enrolled in the traditional high school this year as a freshman again. He will officially be a sophomore by the end of this semester, but today we arranged a plan that should put him on track to graduate with last year's freshman class (still graduating at 19). It's going to mean a few semesters of extra hard work and some credit recovery courses, but definitely doable. We finally feel better informed and equipped to understand the high school system here.

All in all, we had a good day. 

Only ten more days till birthday #3.