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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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gratitude even in the storm

Okay, so I admit, I've been a grouch the last month or so.  I don't like complication.  I don't like things overlapping on my calendar.  I don't like not sleeping well.  I don't like it when my hormones get unbalanced. I don't like state testing when it negatively affects my four year olds.  I don't like having to keep those four year olds quiet all day for four days out of the month for such state testing when a big part of their curriculum is socialization and learning how to talk and communicate effectively.  I don't like it when I hear one too many voices in the hallway outside my classroom that I end up blowing up at absolutely everyone in the hallway.

I don't like filing an extension on my taxes because I don't like being late for anything.  I don't like waiting on government paperwork, and I don't like being so flustered that I get behind on my other appointments.  I don't like feeling like my weekly ladies' bible study is a burden rather than the joy I've always known it to be.  I don't like planning a trip months in advance, only to have two soccer schedules invade all my best laid plans for my boys.  I don't like my husband's schedule being different every week because it throws the whole family out of whack, including the crazy dogs. I don't like watching my husband suffer because his truck and all of the belongings inside got stolen by some idiot who set out to hurt any random person who had a truck he wanted.

None of these things are life threatening or even worth my griping (okay, maybe the truck), but when they all add up together, they can put me in a pretty cranky mood.  Add hormones to that, and watch out!

However, a friend posted someone else's blog entry on facebook this week, and it helped me put it all back into perspective. Be thankful in all things.  Yes, all things.  What other choice do we have?  (Stop right now and read her post. You won't regret it.

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/lori-freeland/

I don't know the author very well, but I've been praying for her.  I thought of her this morning on my drive to Fort Worth, and I decided to take her advice.  I spent the entire drive just thanking God for everything I could think of, even the hard stuff.  She inspired me.

I pulled up in the parking lot at the conference, got out of my car, and found myself greeting none other than that very author. What a blessing to be able to share with her how she had blessed me this morning.  

Refreshment, Inspiration, and Guidance

It's been a busy, hectic, heavy month. All month I've prayed about being able to go to the Writing for Excellence conference today, but I felt no peace about registering.  I felt no peace about letting it go, either. I'm really struggling over how to go about publishing my second book, and I knew I needed some linear guidance.  I'm not pleased with the first publisher I used, but I felt overwhelmed at the other options out there.  I needed this conference to help me take the right steps.

Writing for Excellence Seminar with Mary DeMuth

Thankfully, my husband supports me one hundred percent when it comes to pursuing a writing career, so I finally registered last night (despite all the headaches, schedule issues, and chaos that we've been through this week over the theft of Mike's truck).

I felt blessed almost immediately upon arrival.  A fellow writer from my writers' group sat at my table with me, and I connected with her and her husband much more than I realized.  Our books have similar themes, and our publishing experiences have been uncannily similar.  Just sitting and talking with them all day gave me incredible guidance.

Mary DeMuth never ceases to inspire me, so the entire day refreshed my soul.  Besides all the technicalities and information about self-publishing, funding, and marketing, I walked away knowing where to focus my attention, as an existing author and as a growing writer.  I want to spend more time getting to know my audience so I can better reach them.  It's not about what I want to give them--it's finding out just what it is they want to learn from me.

I wrote our first book with other families in mind who were grieving a failed adoption. Yet I see now that God has used it more as an inspiration of perseverance and faith through whatever life brings us.  My second book probably fits more into the second category.  (Looks like I need to figure out just who my target audience is before I can strategically find ways to get the book into their hands!)  I also learned that figuring out where my true passion lies can truly help fuel my writing in the future.  Is my passion to write about caring for the orphan or to write about living by faith?  I'll have to ponder that one for awhile.

More than anything, I loved being in a room with a large group of Christian authors, all with one main purpose. Our writing is our ministry. It's how God wants to touch other people through us, through all of our unique stories, passions, and gifts.  It's not about money.  It's not about sales.  It's about touching an audience, one reader at a time.  I look forward to possibly attending two more conferences in the summer time.

NTCW Roundtable Workshop

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I still miss her

"I just want to see my sister, to know what she looks like now."

Juan David's first response after we got out the cake to celebrate both his brother's and his sister's birthdays.  He misses her.  To be honest, I still miss her, too. 

I remember the day Julian sent me that precious picture of them together.  After eight months of silence, eight months to process the fact that I'd never know anything more about them, I made a single plea to God.  "Please let me hear from Juan David again somehow, someday."  Then out of the blue, Julian says, "My brother wrote you a letter this weekend."  He took a picture of it and promised to send it via e-mail.  I pestered and pestered him until he sent the picture of the letter.  I didn't expect the other pictures he sent with it.  Pictures of all three of them, continuing life.  The life I had once assumed was supposed to be with me as their Mama. 

Though thrilled to see the pictures, I struggled to grasp why God had thrust them back into my life.  I wondered if our relationship with Julian might open a door to another chance at her adoption.  I put the pictures in frames up on the wall of the "empty" bedroom.  They represented hope. Hope that the story wasn't over yet. She and I kept in touch with sweet messages via her brother for several more months.  Until they matched her with a new Mama.  So happy for her.  So heartbreaking for us.  For Julian.  For Juan David.  She skipped right on out of all of our lives, and I grieved her loss again.  Four months later, we finally made it to Colombia to begin a two year journey that would unexpectedly give Juan David back to us.

I didn't realize that I'd begun to decorate that room for him by putting those pictures up on the wall.  I never imagined that one day, almost four years later, we'd be sitting at the table with him, eating a cake with one of those pictures scanned onto it, celebrating his siblings' birthdays.  I never could have fathomed the cute conversations that would later surround that picture.  "I want to eat Julian's face." (David).  "I want to eat the face of my sister." (Juan David).

It took us almost a week to finish the cake.  Those two faces stared back at us every night at dessert time, until we finally cut through the picture to finish off the cake.  I dreamed about her that night.  I wonder where she is, how she's doing, and, like Juan David's comment, what she might look like today.  Though I have total peace about her, I miss her.  Having her brother here, knowing how much he misses her, makes me miss her even more. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Easter weekend

Our first Easter weekend as a family with Juan David consisted of a Christian movie marathon.  On Friday, I gave both the boys their favorite Christian movies.  David got Courageous, and Juan David got the Passion of the Christ.  The boys sat and watched Courageous together on Friday afternoon, followed by Fireproof (a movie we already had).

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In the late evening, we all sat down together as a family to watch The Passion of the Christ.  Juan David thanked me for selecting that movie for him because he said that they watched it in Colombia every year on Good Friday.  It sure is a hard movie to watch, though, the hard reminder it is of just how much Christ suffered for us.  This verse kept replaying over and over in my head throughout the movie, "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.....".  Sometimes I think we don't want to admit just how much he actually endured.

The Passion of the Christ (2004) Poster



We attended our Easter service on Saturday night, along with my brother and his family.  How cool to watch a service broadcast straight from Jerusalem, from locations that may have been where Jesus actually spent those last hours of his life before the crucifixion. It should be available online sometime this week if you'd like to see it. (http://www.lakepointe.org/Message/MessageLibrary.aspx)

This morning we went as a family to see the movie Heaven is for Real.  That movie (book, actually) will always be extra meaningful to me because my own son suffered very similar symptoms last summer in Colombia, and we wondered if he'd be taken into emergency surgery to have his appendix removed.  When I read the book, I completely connected with the father in the story as he beat himself up over not taking his son's symptoms seriously enough. 

Heaven Is for Real Book

I love our movie marathon reminded us of what really matters in life, then reminded us of how much Christ truly sacrificed for us, and then put our focus on Heaven, where Jesus stands today.  The reality of our faith.  We don't serve a dead God.  Christ is risen!

Happy Easter, everyone!  We're off to finish our weekend with family again and then with our small group (who might as well be family, too!)


Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Photo Book

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Create your own personalized photo books at Shutterfly.com.

Thursday, April 17th

Two o'clock a.m.  There aren't many occasions where you might welcome a phone call from the police at two in the morning.  Despite being woken up, it sure felt good to hear that the truck had been found, amidst other stolen trucks.  We know very little at this point as to how or exactly when it was found, who they arrested, or even what shape it's in.  Nor do we know if they've recovered any of the contents that went missing, either.  The truck has been shuffled between the police, the impound, and the insurance company, so we haven't even seen it yet.  But at least we're not stuck wondering where it might be, with who, and why?

I'm pretty doggone exhausted, though.  Too many late nights. (I'm a morning person, not a night owl).  Too much going on in too short of a period of time. A little too much stress.  I haven't even made it to the grocery store this week yet!

I look forward to a restful Easter weekend, with no soccer games, no trips, no big social events, etc. There's a reason God calls us to seasons of rest.  I am hoping that He will call me to enter one soon.  I am craving a few long, quiet mornings around here, and I know the boys are craving a few long mornings to sleep in after their weekend running all over everywhere while we were gone (It truly took a village to accommodate them for just three short days, but that's for another post, another time.)

Goodnight, all.  

Wednesday, April 16th

So, we just wished Julian a happy 21st birthday on Monday, but their little sister who never came home to us will celebrate her 12th birthday on Friday, the 18th.  That made two "family" birthdays in a week, one on Monday and one on Friday.  Those two will always have our hearts and they will always be a part of Juan David, so we decided to celebrate at home.  We scanned a picture of both of them together and had a special cake made for both of them.  Mike took the picture in to work Wednesday morning and planned to bring it home when he got off work in the early afternoon.

The cake turned out beautiful, and Mike said it made him feel really good about our plans to celebrate at dinner.  He walked out of SAM's Club with the cake in the buggy only to find that his truck had completely disappeared.  A big red truck, F350, successfully stolen right out of the parking lot in broad daylight.  He ended up pulling up video from the club and watched just how easily those thieves broke into his truck and actually drove away with it.  44 seconds.  It only took 44 seconds to steal a big, red truck out of a busy parking lot right at lunch time!


More than the thought of the truck being gone, the thought of all the stuff that Mike had inside it and in the toolbox just made us sick.  The one positive we kept thanking God for was the fact that if Juan David's social security card had come, Mike likely would have had all of our tax paperwork in the truck to take to the accountant (including ALL of our adoption receipts and expenses, many of which cannot be replaced).  Thank God it's all still locked in a safe, waiting on that social security card. 

Mike spent all day and evening talking to the police and the insurance.  We still had our birthday celebration at dinnertime, although the mood had dampened quite a bit due to the circumstances.  Juan David thought the cake was beautiful, though, and he expressed how much he wished he could just see his sister and know what she looks like now.  I have faith that someday they'll all find each other.


While the boys and I went to church and Bible study that evening, a close friend brought over a vehicle for us to borrow until we had another way to get around.  So thankful to have such great friends in times of need.

Tuesday, April 15th--TAX DAY

By this time every year, tax day doesn't really mean much because we've usually already filed, gotten a refund, and felt more secure with a cushion in our savings again.  This year I began the day driving through the post office to file an extension for the first time ever. 

If I thought Colombian paperwork with the government was bad, I can't say the U.S. has seemed much better (or quicker).  First we found ourselves waiting much longer than normal for Juan's certificate of citizenship.  They said getting a social security card would be easy after that.  Really?  What was supposed to take two weeks (or four at the most) is now dragging into eight weeks.  Even a four week wait would have had his card here in time to get our taxes done.  Nope.  Nothing.  Still.  We've called several times, only to say the # hasn't been issued yet.

Monday, April 14th

Wishing a happy, happy 21st birthday to our other sweet son, Julian.  Juan David's biological brother.  The boy "responsible" for keeping us in Juan David's life and for voicing his heart to the Colombian officials over our case, convincing them that his brother belonged with us.  Some days I really miss that boy.  I know that the fact that our hearts are so tied to Julian has really helped our bonding with Juan David.

I got a coupon to make a free photo book on Shutterfly, so I made a book for Julian.  Unfortunately, it hasn't arrived yet, but he knows it's coming. It turned out absolutely beautiful.  I hope he will always cherish the pics of him and his brother together this summer on our trip to Villa de Leyva.

We also made a short video for him, saying happy birthday, and sent it his way. 

The day ended with a quick dinner and early evening soccer game in the freezing cold, which seemed even colder having just come from 90 degree weather in Texas.

Sunday, April 13th

Another morning to sleep in, at least a little bit.  Some friends who live in Round Rock  mentioned that they'd love for us to stop by on our drive back home (the ones who led our very first trip to Piedras Negras seven years ago when we met Madai, also the ones who let us stay at their house the weekend that we met Juan David and his sister).  We hadn't seen them in a few years, so we made arrangements to get together with them for an early dinner.  Our plan was to leave around 11:30 to make sure we'd get there by four.  We figured we could spend about two hours with them before heading home, getting us home by around 8:30 or so. 

However, we woke up with an hour left for breakfast.  Mmmmmm.  Those chilaquiles just melted in our mouths!  (Reminded us of when we had the same delicious breakfast at a hotel in Mexico City during our honeymoom).  After breakfast, we packed up and ended up leaving at 11:30 to go bid Madai goodbye and see her new house.  Then an hour later, we found ourselves still waiting in line to cross the border back into the United States.

Though an hour later than planned, we enjoyed every minute (and bite) at our friends' house in Round Rock.  What a blessing to spend an early evening with them. 

By seven o'clock, we couldn't resist David's pleas via texts, asking us to please get back on the road toward home.  He missed us.  :(  We got home by ten o'clock.  Falling into bed was not an option, though, because we came home to a pretty urgent house repair and to two boys who wanted to go through their goodie bags right away.

Monday morning came way too fast.  "Okay, if I can just make it through the next three days, life will finally slow down enough to catch my breath....."


April 11th-12th

After leaving San Antonio, we arrived in Mexico within less than three hours.  After meeting up with Madai and her husband-to-be at McDonald's to get directions to the hotel from her, we headed to our hotel and rested for the entire afternoon until our friends also arrived later that night.  We held off on dinner and ended up ordering pizzas at ten thirty at night!  I always made Juan David order delivery for me in Colombia because I hate making the order over the phone in Spanish, but I survived.  That pizza was delicious!

Saturday turned out to be a full day in Mexico.  We slept in late, enjoyed an amazing complimentary Mexican breakfast (you can never go wrong with authentic chilaquiles!), walked around for quite a while, shopped at the "bodega" to buy the boys a stash of Mexican candies, sat by the pool for a coffee break, and we even went shopping at the market! We're all stocked up again on our pure vanilla, soccer shirts, and a Mexican shirt for me in my favorite color. 

The wedding started that evening at 7:00.  Madai made such a beautiful, adorable bride.  After the wedding, we proceeded to the reception hall at 9:00.  We sat with our friends from home (who are like family to Madai), and we just had an absolute blast hanging out with them that night.  What a great family!  We love them dearly.  The party likely went till about 3 a.m., but we all left by 1:00 and just crashed.

 

 

Photo: Beautiful indeed. 

Photo 

It will be so fun to share an anniversary (close) with my sweet, sweet friend, Madai.  Love her dearly.

Thursday, April 10th

Happy Anniversary to my husband of now 15 years!  I am in awe of all that we have been through, done together, grown, matured, and accomplished in these fifteen years.

We were blessed by, yes, SIX different friends to help us accomodate our boys and their schedules to we could get away on a quick little trip together on our own--a long overdue vacation as a couple.  We hung for a night and half day in San Antonio. We went up in the Tower of the Americas, which overlooks San Antonio and celebrates the incredible mix of people, languages, and cultures that have mixed together here in Texas. 

We got to end our time together in San Antonio with an amazing lunch at Texas Longhorn Steakhouse, compliments of a very surprising gift card from one of the ladies in my Bible study!

After that, we texted  our sweet friend Madai and told her we were finally on our way to Mexico to witness her wedding!

Photo: At the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio.

Wednesday, April 9

Due to a busy weekend that was quite hectic to plan, I regret not having a chance to share this right away.  However, I want to publicly acknowledge and congratulate my hard-working husband for being named Associate of the Year (out of 210 associates) at SAM'S Club!  I'm so proud of him and know he is a well-respected guy over there with a great attitude.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twenty years!

Twenty years ago today, Mike and I very shyly and slowly began a relationship that lasted for the rest of high school and college, leading us to the altar to make our vows to one another five years later.  Here are some snapshots of us way back then during those high school years.

 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Liebster Blog Award

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I am sending a thank you out to my dear friend, previous coworker, and fellow blogger, Ann Poppenfoose (http://christintheclouds.blogspot.com/) for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award!  It's just a cool way for Christian bloggers to recognize other Christian bloggers for inspiring them through their blogs.  Plus it's a way to get to know one another better and share more about ourselves to our other readers.  I will, in turn, choose other Christian bloggers to nominate for this award.

In response to this award, I have answered 11 creative questions that Ann made up for me to share on my blog.  Enjoy learning a little bit more about me. 

1. Describe yourself in three words.  Sincere, reflective, determined 
2. Who is your favorite author and why? Stormie Omartian--it's all about prayer.  Without it, all our attempts at life are futile and meaningless.  
 3. What was the last thing you read, watched, and listened too? Read: Facebook   Watched: Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself study, Session 7   Listened to: Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself study, Session 3 (Audio)  
 4. What is your favorite comfort food? Vanilla chai and dark chocolate 
 5. If you were a zoo animal, what would you be? Probably a bird of some kind, so I could fly
 6. What accomplishment are you most proud of? Writing a book 
 7. What is your favorite season, and why? Spring.  I love the weather, the flowers, and the newness of life. Plus I was born in the spring.
 8. Who is your favorite Bible character and why? Either David or Esther.  I love David because he wrote such tender poetry from his heart.  I love Esther for her courage, despite all the odds against her.  
 9. What inspires you? Knowing that as long as I'm still here, I have not fulfilled my purpose.  
10. What is something you like to do to relax? Writing relaxes me more than anything.  I also like to ride my bike when the weather permits.
11. Which do you prefer visit...beach or mountains? Both.  But only in the morning.  I would love to spend a long, quiet morning overlooking the mountains or watching the sun rise on the beach.   

Thanks, again, Ann! (http://christintheclouds.blogspot.com/) You have encouraged and inspired me, too!

God's timing, not mine

As I read through my Bible study this week in preparation to teach (Living Beyond Yourself by Beth Moore), I came across something I'd written in it nearly fourteen years ago that touched my heart. 

Question:  In what area of your life are you most needing to trust in God's faithfulness right now?

My answer: My desire to be a mommy, both naturally and by adoption

 (Within a year or two later, God gave us David, naturally.  We waited nearly 12 more years after that before God officially gave us Juan David, by adoption.)

Trust in His faithfulness.  If He put the desire in your heart, He will be faithful to give it to you. 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seeking some balance

We may not have a new baby in the house, but I still can find myself feeling just as ragged as a new mom some days.  Adding our second child didn't come with the demands of a newborn, but it sure did bring on a whole new set of demands that are new to us.  Managing time, I guess, has been the most challenging for me.  Along with letting go of all the expectations I had and still have of myself.

I want to be that mom whose kids' friends feel comfortable talking to and being around.  I want to be fun-loving and welcoming and hospitable.  I want to be active and involved, the cheerleader and the confidant.  The nurturer and the guide.  I want my kids to know they can always come to me. Talk to me.  Confide in me.  I haven't kept much of all that up, though.  Lately, all I've been is the grouch, the distrusting one, the critique, and the control freak.  My main focus seems to be keeping an eye on the calendar to make sure everybody gets fed adequately and has a way to get to their appointed place on time. 

I don't know how (or why) parents do it when they have multiple kids in multiple activities.  We do three things in our home: school, church, soccer.  Plus Mike and I each have a favorite pastime. He likes to work on his truck projects.  I like to focus on my writing. I've realized lately that we can't do it all and still maintain our values as a family.  Time to reprioritize.

God. Family. School. Recreation.  It's all important, but if it's not in order, it doesn't work.

I'm crazy about commitment--100% commitment.  If we say we're going to do it, we're going to be there 100%.  Now I see that as another one of those high expectations I put upon myself that I have to let go every now and then. 

Two amazing camping weekends just for guys with the youth pastor appeared on the youth schedule at church.  A time of fellowship and to teach them how to man up and be the young men that God called them to be.  We had to choose between that or soccer games or school activities that they're already committed to.  We agreed that the church events had to come first.  That decision sends a message about what our family values most.  We wanted to make sure they got the right message. 

We've had our 15 year anniversary trip to Mexico planned since the fall when Madai set her wedding date for the same weekend as our anniversary.  We made arrangements for the boys to stay with people and still make it to school.  Then the soccer schedules were finalized and three games in three different places and times appeared for the same weekend.  One that went till 10:00 at night on a school night.  Even though we had friends volunteer to help with transportation for the boys, I felt like it was too much to ask, so we actually considered changing our plans and shortening our trip.  That decision would send a loud message to our boys, though.  A message that says that their activities come before our marriage.  We can't do that.  We knew we needed to stick to our original plans. God blessed our decision quickly by having another friend volunteer to take care of the night game transportation.  So unexpected, which made me even more grateful. 

The calendar is always full of activities.  Some for school that we can't avoid.  Choir concerts, family nights, informational meetings. Some for adoptive purposes, likewise, that we can't avoid.  Post-adoption paperwork. Immigration appointments.  Applying for and waiting on a social security card. Post-placement visits, dates, and reports to keep up with.  Some for church that are necessary for spiritual growth, like guys' camping trips, ladies' Bible study, home groups, etc.  Others are beneficial and good, but need to be chosen based on what else has already filled the calendar.  I had to swallow the fact that I can't teach a ten week Bible study, have two boys in soccer, keep up with school activities in three different schools, and still be able to attend my monthly writer's group.  I hate missing it, but I  also hate feeling pulled in so many directions at once that I no longer feel a passion for any of them.

There's a writer's conference coming up at the end of the month right here in Fort Worth taught by my friend from writer's group, Mary DeMuth, specifically on self-publishing your book.  I know it's exactly what I need at this time so I can make sure I take the right steps to publish my second book, (truly the guidance I've been looking for), but for now it's just a maybe, a possibility.  I can't add another thing to the calendar at the moment.

So, in a nutshell, this is my biggest struggle as a new adoptive mother.  Managing a schedule with a new one added.  Prioritizing and remembering what message my choice of activities sends to my children.  Letting go of the high expectations I set for myself.  Accepting that 100% participation is not required.  I even had to ask for help with Bible study one night because I felt ill and overwhelmed. 

I haven't gotten it all figured out--what I should say yes to and what it's okay to say no to.  It's a daily, weekly struggle.  When is it time to step back in order to rest and regroup and when is it time to seize the opportunity in front of me before it slips away? (Had I given in to feeling overwhelmed a few weeks ago, I never would have gotten the chance to meet Jennifer Rothschild and Stormie Omartian, to catch up with old friends at a book signing in Indiana, to see my grandparents again after probably seven years, to meet my niece and nephew on Mike's side of the family and hang out with my sweet sisters-in-law.)  

There you have it, from my heart.  I like to share all the fun and positive stuff on here, but if you are a reader because we share the adoption journey together, then here's one of those honest posts that lets you know some of the struggles in the journey, too. 

(Sigh... I told David I just wanted to finish up this blog entry quickly before I went in to read with him tonight since I've been attempting to write it for a week now.  I clicked save and just now found him sound asleep. Let. the. guilt. go...)