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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.

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Surviving the Valley Series
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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.

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