About Me

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


Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

World Cup Fever

We've got a little World Cup Fever going on around here.  These games have kind of dominated our time, but it's been fun and quite entertaining.  We decided to go for three teams from the beginning, so we've made it a point to watch all of their games.  USA, Colombia, and Mexico.  As of this moment, all of them are still in! 

Yesterday Colombia played an amazing game, securing their spot in the quarter-finals.  According to Juan David, they have never made it this far before, so we're pretty psyched.  It's funny watching the games because we watch them simultaneously via facebook with all of our other friends who are either Colombian, live in Colombia, have adopted from Colombia, or are currently in Colombia finalizing their adoption.  One posted a video from her apartment in Bogota after Colombia scored a goal.  You could hear cheers and horns honking all over the city.  The entire country is celebrating!

I found some red, blue, and yellow paint in the closet, and Juan David's face just lit up.  He ran to the bathroom and started painting away.  Here's what it looked like in our house during the game. (I'm learning just how passionate Colombians are about soccer).

 


Home :)

Juan David arrived home safely from camp yesterday.  He really had an amazing time, an experience like no other in his life so far. As soon as he got in the car, he couldn't stop talking about all the new friends he made.  He even wants to start going to the church on Sunday mornings so he can still see all the friends he made from the other services.  I told him I don't mind taking him at all whenever he wants to go.  He has always loved going to church here, but we've really hoped that he'd begin to make some closer relationships with church people.  We finally got our wish.  Now, most of them happen to be girls, but, hey, I'll take what I can get.  (What girls wouldn't love hanging out with the cute new kid from Colombia with the cute accent?)

We finished his room just in time for him to get home.  He said he loves it!  One dark red wall.  Three white walls. Black trim.  Black shelf.  Black closet doors.  Dark red curtains.  Even a new ceiling fan that actually works.  (He had a really old one in there that would only work half the time). I hope it makes him feel even more at home now.  It's finally his own room, just the way he wanted it.  My favorite part of decorating it  was putting up all the pictures of his siblings across the top shelf.  It's not just his room, it's their room. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

All smiles

Looks like he's having a great time and even got to meet Pastor Steve (from the Rockwall campus, the one who preaches via satellite).  I see he did not forget to put on his Colombia jersey today.  I hope he got to watch the game since Colombia did so well!

Photo: Looks like he's having fun.  Has his Colombia jersey on for the game.  Wonder if he's watching it right now. :) 

Here at home, we're continuing on his "new room" so it will be ready for him. (It felt a little strange today painting over walls that we once painted for his sister.) It warms my heart to give him the opportunity to make it his own.  One more wall to paint and then to finish up the trim.  His flooring will have to wait because we're working on the floors in the other rooms of the house still.  (Or maybe I should say Mike is still working on the other floors).  I've been making a good spectator and realizing just how helpless I am in a lot of areas. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

More soccer, more camp

David has had to give up the opportunity to play indoor soccer with his team for the last three summers because he's spent them all in Colombia.  So this year, he finally gets to play.  Today they played their first game and tied.  Once again, I'm so thankful for a good coach that's so willing to dedicate his time to these boys.

Juan David left this evening for a week of church camp in Colorado.  They have a long bus ride ahead of them, (prayers for safety, please), but an amazing week awaits them.  We're talking "hotel style camping" at a ski resort.  He's going to have an awesome time.  He's been a bit nervous about the necessity to speak entirely in English the whole time, but I know it will be so good for him.  His confidence in his English skills will skyrocket after this trip.  I also pray that it will have a deep spiritual impact on him. 

 

It will be a very quiet week here at home without him, but I am looking forward to some one-on-one time with David over the next few days.  Plus we will be working together to repaint Juan David's room with his chosen color scheme while he's gone.  He, too, will get to come home to a new room--one that he designed.  I think it will only help to make him feel even more at home here.  

We've been doing quite a bit of home improvement stuff this month, actually.  Mike has been a busy guy. It's a little hectic, but it feels so good to tear up the old, dust it all off, declutter, and start over new. 

World Cup 2014

So, we missed the first few games of the World Cup (including Colombia's first game), but we kept up with the scores and the hype via Facebook.  However, we watched all the games we missed after we got home, and we made up for missing Colombia's first game by showing our spirit for the second game. So far they've won two out of their first three games.

 

Today the boys wore their new jerseys that I got for them so they could properly cheer for the USA game.  

Photo: Ready for the USA game!

Yes, I do enjoy dressing them alike when they will actually comply with me. It makes them look more like real brothers, despite the obvious physical differences.

Camping Part 2

Once we visited with everyone, we decided to head closer to home to find a better campsite.  Our site in Austin didn't have any kind of fire pit, nor could we even use our tiki torches at night.  They would not allow any type of open flame.  We actually had to ask to borrow a small grill to cook on and a table to eat off of.  We wanted to go home with the smell of a campfire on our clothing, at least, so we headed to Lake Whitney to finish our camping vacation.

Our campsite at Lake Whitney offered everything we wanted.  A fire pit. A grill. A table.  A shaded area to eat.  Close access to the water for swimming.  No restrictions on burning.  Mike cooked us some amazing meals over the fire, we made smores late into the night, the boys and I rode bikes, and we swam all day and then returned to the lake to watch the sunset in the evenings.  We had a lovely time together.  Our favorite part of the trip was watching the boys bond more and more every day. 

 

Nice place for my morning quiet time.

 

A beautiful, heart-warming way to end each evening.  

Camping is so good for the soul. And such a bonding experience for a family. We are looking forward to our next camping trip in July.  

Family Camping

As soon as Mike got off work early on Friday, we took off to go camping as a family for the next five days.  We purposely chose a campground in Austin so we could see a few specific people.

Friday night, Juan David had a reunion with the family that hosted him and his sister through Kidsave back in 2008.  They hadn't seem him in almost six years.  We will always be grateful to them for opening their home to them that summer, thus bringing Juan David (and his sister) into our lives. 

 

On Saturday, we arranged to meet one of Juan David's childhood friends from the same orphanage who moved to Texas in 2011 via adoption.   He and his mom came to the campground and stayed the entire day late into the evening.  We feel so incredibly blessed to have made this connection and immediately connected with the mother.  She is an amazing Christian woman who has so much in common with us.  We all loved watching the boys reconnect, realizing that it gave us another part of their childhood that we missed out on.  We plan to stay in touch and keep the boys involved in each other's lives.  They even came back on Sunday to take Juan David to church with them, which he told us was very much like our own church. 

Photo: Old friends, new friends. Boys who grew up together, moms who just met. We have more in common than we could have imagined. 


Later on Sunday evening, we invited another friend to the campground who also adopted three Colombian boys through Kidsave.  His boys are all young adults now, the youngest being 18.  They all played soccer together for a bit and we just talked about similar experiences.  He is also the one who connected us with our lawyer in Colombia who helped us get Juan David's case reopened.  Without his help, I highly doubt we would have followed through to contact the lawyer, so God definitely used him to play a big role in our story.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of their visit. :(

Summer fun

My summer resolution was to write a blog entry every day.  Ha!  I don't think I'm doing so good with that one.  Looks like I've got a bit to catch up on in the last week and a half.

Let's start with David's camp.  He left the morning after school got out and came home the following Wednesday.  He absolutely loved it and found himself surprised at how much more freedom you have at a middle school camp than at a kids' camp.  He loved the food, came home with a larger appetite than before, and has mentioned several times how much he liked the speaker and the worship team.

Here's a picture of the Firewheel group.  David is kneeling down in the second row.

Photo: Zachary's TREK middle school camp group pic with Lakepointe Firewheel! We have been watching the daily videos and pics on Twitter. These kids had an awesome time of fellowship and worship this week! A great, big, THANK YOU to their youth pastor, Shane Boswell, and the other adults who spent this week with our youth! I appreciate all of you! 

He had an awesome time, but I'm glad to have him back home now.  He came home to his brand new room and absolutely loves it.  It turned from a little boy room into a tween/teen room that he can be comfortable in for many years now. We rearranged it just right so he has a separate study area, too, which he really likes.

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13--Gotcha Day

Today is our first anniversary of Gotcha Day.  It's the day that Juan David's social worker brought him to us and placed him in our care.  This time we knew we wouldn't have to give him back. We still had to go through Integration a week later, and then wait for the adoption to go through the court process before officially signing the adoption decree a month later, giving him his new last name. Making him officially part of our family forever.


June 13, 2013

Five years of waiting. Fighting. Gaining contact with him, losing contact with him. Grieving. Gaining contact again. Losing contact again. Finally, the day came that we didn't have to give him back. 

Here is a poem that appears in the second book (whenever I get around to finally publishing it--those issues are for another post). Seems fitting to share it here today--the day God gave him back.

I felt compelled to ask


A surrendered heart,
a tearful plea,
so stuck in my misery.
Then I heard a tender whisper,
Child, give them back to Me.”


I let them go,
I held them high,
Open hands up to the sky.
He convinced me I could trust Him
even if I never knew why.


Life went on,
Hearts on the mend,
Yet I felt compelled to say,
If you would do one thing for me,
let me hear from them someday.”


A letter written,
a phone call arranged,
Sweet messages soon danced between us.
Then they whisked her away, left him alone,
Our hearts left again to fuss.


A sister gone,
a brother forced to leave,
Not even a future family in sight.
I'm all alone,” he cried out to me.
So my heart once again began to fight.


Life stood still.
How could this be?
I felt compelled to ask boldly.
Oh, God, if it be Your will now,
would You give him back to me?”


Thursday, June 12, 2014

A year ago today

A year ago today, Juan David spent his last night in the orphanage.  His last night away from his forever family.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Bible Study--Starting soon!

I made a decision toward the end of the spring Bible study that I will most likely not teach a study during the 2014-15 school year.  I overcommited myself last year and felt the effects: burnout.  What once filled me with joy soon became a burden.  I guess that's when you know it's time to take a step back.

However, summertime is different for me, and I look forward to teaching a shorter study and to growing close to another set of women.  In the fall, I will just join a study that someone else is teaching so I can still enjoy the fellowship. 

Here's the study that I wanted to teach this summer:

The Power of A Praying Woman:                          Participant's Guide  -     By: Stormie Omartian
 

No matter what study I've taught in the past, most of the women seem to be seeking the same thing. A greater intimacy with Christ.  They dig into Bible study after Bible study, increasing in Biblical knowledge but never really finding what they're searching for.  The study ends, and they fall back into the same routines as before.  I've come to this conclusion:  Bible study and intimate prayer cannot be separated.  I felt a strong calling to teach another study just on prayer.  

I bought the participant book, went through it myself first, but then I couldn't find it on the list of studies that the church owned.  I also couldn't afford to purchase it myself at the time and then donate it to the church.  So, I scanned the list and found this one instead:

Living Free: Learning to Pray God's Word 

Living Free: Learning to Pray God's Word

I dug it out of my studies at home and started to go through it again. Both studies are very similar in that they teach you to pray Scripture.  This one is a bit shorter and has no weekly video sessions to go with it.  I kind-of like that because sometimes a video session can be so long that it takes too much time away from being able to get to know one another and build relationships.  

The three things I love about teaching Bible studies are:
  1. Seeing women get serious about opening their Bible every day.
  2. Seeing women grow closer to Christ and to each other through prayer.
  3. Seeing women develop relationships with other Christian women who are serious about the same thing.  We need each other.  I take for granted all the relationships God has given me through these studies until I see a Christian woman who is struggling through life without that.  It's heartbreaking to know what they've been missing.
I look forward to starting this study with a new group of women just two weeks from today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's SUMMER!!!

Okay, so maybe not officially on the calendar.  But if school is out, it's summertime for me.  I am already soaking in the beautiful mornings.  Yesterday I sat on my porch in the rain (yes, can you believe it? RAIN in Texas!).  Today the temps were absolutely perfect.  What a great way to start my summer.

David's been at camp for three days now, and I miss him. :(  I've been following all the pics and videos on the church's twitter feed, though, so I know he's having a blast.  We are doing some repainting and repairing within the house this summer, so we started with David's room while he was gone.  We began immediately after he left, and now I am anxious for him to get home to see how incredible it turned out.  New colors (that he picked out).  New floor.  New furniture arrangement.  It looks amazing. So amazing that we're itching for Juan David to go to camp so we can tackle his room and other parts of the house. (Sorry, no pics until after he gets to see it first).

With David being gone, though, I've enjoyed spending some much needed time with Juan David.  It's been good bonding time and has given us a lot of time to just talk about life.  His heart is sad right now because he had to say goodbye to most of his friends from school, knowing that he won't see many of them again, and knowing that the daily routines and friendship he developed with the others won't ever be the same. The realities of traditional high school and the expectations to speak English are starting to hit him.  He's excited about going to church camp in Colorado in two weeks, but he's scared at the same time because it will be FULL English immersion.  I reminded him that he makes friends very easily, and I know he's going to be just fine.  He's a happy kid who is always looking on the bright side (an attitude that he developed while in Colombia, determined to not let his circumstances define him or direct his life.)  I could stand to learn a thing or two from him.

David will be back tomorrow evening, will have a day to chill out and do laundry (and enjoy his new room), and then we're headed out on a family camping trip for a few days.  Mike and I had already decided that we wanted to go camping a lot this summer, and God just began dumping opportunities on our lap.  I take that as His blessing to devote time together as a family. No big travels or international trips looming overhead. We're staying in Texas and enjoying each other's company.

We also made the comment that we needed to go to Austin, where we met Juan David, to visit some key people on our journey to him. So, we found a campsite in Austin, and all of those details fell into place. Looks like we'll be able to visit with the family that hosted him and his sister back in 2008, our friend who helped connect us with our lawyer (his lawyer) in Colombia to reopen JD's case, and now we also get to meet one of JD's friends that he grew up with in Colombia who was adopted in 2011.  They're all coming (at separate times) to visit with us right at our campsite, so we're really looking forward to it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

We survived!

Our 2013-14 school year officially ended yesterday, and I am happy to say that we all survived.

I survived my first year teaching Pre-K.  I didn't expect the change or even know about it until shortly before school started, and I started the year without a clue about how a year with four-year-olds might actually go.  I flew by the seat of my pants, playing trial and error over and over again.  We all survived, though, and my kids learned more than I ever imagined they could learn.  I gave them structure, consistency, and high expectations.  For the most part, they rose to the occasion and met those expectations.  At the same time, a really neat friendship developed between my assistant and me, making the year an even greater blessing than I ever could have asked for.

Here is a pic of one of my little girls whose dad happens to work at my church.  I'm gonna miss her sweet personality!

Photo 

David survived his first year of middle school.  So much newness in that boy's life.  First year to change classes and have a locker.  First year at an Academy.  First year with a brother.  First year to share Mom and Dad. He definitely struggled his way through and is more than happy to have sixth grade behind him! At this very moment, he's on his way to Austin, Texas for five days of youth camp.  

Photo: Off to camp. So thankful for his good buddy that goes with him every year.

Juan David survived his first year of high school and his first year of school in the United States.  He absolutely loved his school, his teachers, his classes, and he also made some amazing friends.  Mike and I had our doubts at times throughout the year regarding whether or not he should have stayed in the newcomer program all year, but we are thankful now that he did.  He'll have some extra catching up to do later if he wants to graduate with this year's freshman class, but I'm sure God will guide us through those steps later.  For the moment, he's not a bit hesitant to share how sad he is that his year at that school has come to an end.  All he can talk about is how much he's going to miss seeing his friends.  

Lots of newness for all of us.  Lots of changes.  But we survived. :)

Photo: We have officially survived!  First year of PreK, middle school, and high school, along with our first year as a new family.  I cannot even begin to explain how much I need this summer.
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