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, July 30, 2014

Living Free


I'm so excited about my new little prayer corner that I set up in my living room.  No mosquitoes. Soft lamplight. A comfortable chair. A small table. Baskets of books, notecards, journals and pens off to the right. It's so adorably inviting, I wondered why I never thought to set it up before.  Then I remembered this morning that the carpet's been torn up in that little corner for the last year or two, so we kept it as hidden as possible. The new floor opened the room back up finally. :)  I think I needed our summer Bible study to inspire me, too.

Tonight we bring that study to a close.  I have cherished every moment with the ladies God brought to the study. I love the way they have opened up to share deeply from their hearts, encouraging one another to keep pressing on, to never stop praying our way through life. I've taught a lot of studies over the last few years, but there's always one that particularly stands out.  I'd have to say this one grabbed my heart.  I needed the reminders of why we need to be praying Scriptures on a daily basis.

When you pray God's Word you build communication with the Father. You learn to think His thoughts even as you pour out your heart to Him. (p. 98)

For anyone who struggles with prayer, I highly recommend this study, Living Free, as well as the book, Praying God's Word (both written by Beth Moore). Getting into the habit of praying Scripture could potentially change your life.


Friday, July 25, 2014

The Great RE-Write

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This quote has so much truth to it. People always told me I had great writing skills. I believed them. Writing is one of my greatest passions and truly my "element", so I believed what others told me about my writing. I even wrote a book and published it! People still complimented me on my writing ability, and I believed them even more. 

Then I joined a writer's group. 

In our group, we all learn a little bit each time we meet.  A grammar rule (or a change in grammar rules since the 90's when I learned all the rules). A better way to incorporate more voice. Appropriate paragraph size. A way to vary sentence structure. How to cut out passive voice in order to use more active verbs. How to condense. What to cut out. Proper editing techniques. 

I don't learn a whole lot in one sitting. I don't always take something to be critiqued.  I don't even have much to offer as far as critiquing someone else's work. But I listen carefully each time, and then I apply what I learn in that one sitting to my current writing.  I hope it's improving.  I'm learning to say so much more with a lot less words.  

I guess I didn't realize just how much I've learned about writing until the big test came.  Pulling out my past work with the intent to revise and rewrite where necessary. I pulled out chapter one of my book and easily cut out nearly a thousand words.  Unnecessary words. Repetitive words. Once I gave chapter one a complete revision, I kept going. Every chapter needed work. Lots of work. I knew I needed to cut out the passive voice in order to condense my writing, I just didn't know how much.  Wow.  

The story didn't change in any way, shape, or form. The writing improved drastically.  A much cleaner "work of art". I plan to republish it with the second book as a set, as suggested by my friend in writer's group who said she'd work with me to publish them in a few months. 

In addition to having a piece of work that I am much prouder of, it also helped me to relive that first period of connection with Juan David, helping me to deepen the connection we're working on now.  I had so many questions about what went on in his head during that "tragic" time when we didn't come through for him, and now I have him here to ask him.  What a blessing.

So, though I had intentions of keeping this blog much more up to date this summer, my "re-writing" project sort-of captivated me for the last month.  My apologies. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unfinished Business

I hate unfinished business.  If I start something, I want to finish it. I can't stand letting it sit, unfinished, for days, weeks, or months at a time.  I am a checklist girl.  I like to set goals.  I plan my time so that I can achieve the goals I set.  Problem? That doesn't leave room for God to alter my plans. That doesn't leave time for God's perfect timing.

God took me on a wild goose chase a few years back and altered every plan I ever made for my life.  He led me to set new goals and reach higher than my dreams.  He took me down a path I couldn't control or plan for in any way.  Nothing more exhilarating. Nothing more exhausting. Following that path may have led to great accomplishment, but it meant leaving a lot of unfinished business in other areas of life.

I so desperately wanted a summer to rest and recuperate from the adventure of the last five years, to tend to all that unfinished business.  I wanted to duplicate a summer I experienced seven years ago, one where nothing dominated my schedule for two months but a daily morning date with God on my front porch and a five year old who wanted to ride bikes, play games, and read books.

There lies the other problem. I couldn't duplicate such a summer because I no longer have a five year old who only wants to ride bikes, play games, and read books. I have a twelve year old who's testing his independence and a sixteen year old who, to no fault of his own, struggles to entertain himself in the absence of 27 other boys. If I don't keep them active and busy, they bore easily and get pulled in the wrong direction. I also have more on my own plate now as a writer and Bible study teacher. Both have consumed quite a bit of my time this summer.

With only a few weeks left of freedom before heading back to the classroom, plus two weeks full of all our normal summer appointments at the dentist and doctor, I sadly look around my house to see just as much unfinished business as we started with.  At least the boys' rooms got painted, but the floors aren't done yet due to running out of flooring and an air conditioner leak that already ruined some of them.

We thought we'd come home from our last amazing camping trip feeling rested and rejuvenated, ready to tackle those projects.  Now our poor camper sits with all the rest of our unfinished business, waiting for us to figure out what we're supposed to do with it now that it's destroyed and unfixable.  We can feel the disappointment take over every time we glance that way. It definitely stole our drive and our joy to get back on track with life.

I hate the thought of starting a new school year with so much unfinished business lingering at home.  But I wonder if my perspective is all wrong.  Maybe me seeing "unfinished" business is just another way of defining a lack of contentment in my life. A lack of gratitude for what is already finished and what has been completed.  How can I claim so much unfinished business when my sixteen year old sits on the couch at home this year rather than where he spent the last fifteen summers away from me, or when he talks about all the new friends he made at church camp, or when he speaks better English every day? When my twelve year old begged to go on a mission trip to work with kids less fortunate than us? When my husband displayed such a humble heart in the midst of a recent disappointment, exemplifying a godly attitude to everyone around him?

Life is never void of problems, disappointments, or unfinished business.  We live through one problem only to experience another, moving from grace to grace. We won't see our business finished until we meet God on the other side.  I hope God sees me as His unfinished business so I never stop learning, growing, and maturing until I meet Him face to face.






Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day, Colombia!  July is a festive month in our family now that we need to celebrate Independence Day for two countries instead of just one. We also happened to meet Juan David and his sister six years ago today.  Celebrating later with arequipe sundaes and a little Colombiana to drink. :) David's off on a five day mission trip at Mission Arlington, so it's just us and Juan David.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Punched in the stomach

Did any of you watch that game between the USA and Portugal? Yeah, that one.  USA held the lead, and everyone assumed we won the game. Then it came down to the last thirty seconds, just enough time for Portugal to score, ending the game with a tie. It felt like a kick in the gut, or as someone posted on Facebook, like being punched in the stomach.

We've all felt like that in our house this week. The story starts something like this:

For the first time in three years, we had no plans to go to Colombia this summer.  Actually, we had no plans to even leave the state of Texas.  Mike and I agreed that we wanted to go camping, so he scheduled a week of vacation in June and then another one in July so we could go camping as a family.  We usually borrow a friend's pop-up, so we're a little spoiled.  No tent camping for us. 

We considered it a blessing when one of Mike's old coworkers approached him at the end of May to offer him his camper for a great price.  For the first time ever, we actually had the available cash, so we jumped at it.  It's something we've always wanted, but we never imagined actually being able to buy one. If you know me, you know that spending money on "stuff" pretty much terrifies me, but the timing really seemed to be God.  

We loved our little house on wheels--fully stocked with a fridge, freezer, oven, stove, microwave, sink, lots of cabinets, and a great air conditioner.  We even had a bathroom with a working toilet and shower!  By the second trip this summer, God replaced my anxiety with peace, showing me how good our little camper would be for our family, to help us with connection with Juan David, to help with late-night bonding for the guys, and it would be great for our marriage for whenever we just wanted to get away.  We started dreaming of all the places we could visit and of the people we could invite to camp with us.  We had three areas for sleeping, so another family could easily join us if we brought a tent for the boys.  

I still struggled with having spent that available cash rather than saving it, but we talked about the fact that the camper would be easy to liquidate if we had an emergency. We decided it was our 15 year anniversary gift to each other.

Here are pics of our cute little home on wheels and the memories we started to build together with it: 

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                      Photo: Beautiful day to take a paddle boat around the lake. Love the serenity of the water.
We had such a great time camping together on both trips, so much fun that we already started to plan for Labor Day. I felt so relaxed by the end of this last trip after being able to disconnect from life for a few days to just relax and chill.  In fact, this is what I wrote on Facebook on Wednesday morning right before we pulled out to head home:

Packing up to return to the real world, where clocks dictate my day and I actually have to wear make up. Thank you, God, for the chance to disconnect from daily life in order to recharge and reconnect with my family for a few days.
We felt so blessed, and we really felt like we'd made a wise investment for our family.

Sadly, we won't enjoy any more trips together in our house-on-wheels. We made it back to the first exit to get off in Garland when an uninsured motorist rammed into us, destroying our little dream.
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We're all just walking around with our heads held low, like we've been kicked in the gut. It literally makes us sick. 

We're all safe, along with the three people in the vehicle that hit us and the two people in the vehicle in front of us that the first car pushed us into. Our truck is fine, too. Money and stuff can be replaced.  But it still stinks. Big time. 

Trying to be thankful for the positives, to be grateful for even this trial.  




Friday, July 11, 2014

A day to celebrate

One year ago today, on July 11, 2013, I signed the Adoption decree, making Juan David an official Alspaugh.  I'd already been sick for several days with some pretty nasty stomach issues.  I could barely eat and feared going out anywhere without quick access to a restroom.  (Not a good situation in Bogota). I just prayed that I'd be okay the day my lawyer finally called me to come.

He told me to be ready for his call Thursday morning.  I waited several hours, more discouraged every hour. When you're sick, all you want to do is go home.  I finally told the boys that I needed to lay down for awhile. After a brief, late-morning nap, my phone finally rang.

"Come now!" What a relief to hear him say those words.  I jumped out of bed, brushed my hair, and grabbed the boys.  We headed into the city toward the court to finally sign that decree.  We did a little more sight-seeing afterwards, since we hadn't been to that part of the city yet, and I fortunately didn't need a restroom for those few hours.

After getting back to the mall by our apartment, we celebrated at our favorite restaurant, Crepes and Waffles. With the Adoption decree signed, we knew it was only a matter of days before we could finally go home to start our lives together as a complete family.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Are you their family?

Juan David came to the United States through Kidsave back in 2008.  He came with the hope of staying with his sister, and unfortunately, that didn't happen. Thankfully he remains strongly connected to his brother, though.

This summer, three sisters are coming to the States with Kidsave, with the hope of finding a family who will keep them together.  Their host has created a blog to advocate for them.  On her blog, she is also sharing other success stories of families who have adopted older kids. 

I hope the stories she shares will warm your heart and will be just the inspiration needed to draw a family to pursue their adoption.  Please check out her blog on a daily basis:

http://sisterssupersummer.wordpress.com/

Overcoming

Our summer Bible study has been amazing so far.  The church gave me a smaller room for the normally smaller summer studies.  Each week we've had about 20 women pack the little room, more women than we normally have in the "larger" studies!  I love that they come from different services, different churches, and such different walks of life.

This particular study has no video, so I assumed we'd keep things short.  Maybe an hour at most.  Especially since getting people to talk can be like pulling teeth in some studies.  Nope.  With no video to show, we get into some really great discussions.  After a full ninety minutes, my ladies' are still meeting with their prayer partners, encouraging each other, opening up to each other, learning how to best pray for one another.  The church is "kindly" kicking us out fifteen minutes past 8:00, our "ending time".  I love it.  It's been a real encouragement to me, confirmation that God chose this particular study specifically for these women.

We are learning how to live free, how to overcome strongholds, by praying Scripture.  I think I've found my biggest stronghold--anxiety.  I struggled with severe anxiety when we went through the adoption process the second time. (Who wouldn't?) I blamed it all on the process and assumed it would go away.  Sadly, a year later, I find myself still struggling.  Before, I worried about not having enough money just to get through the process.  Now, after finally getting that long-awaited tax check from the Adoption Tax Credit, I worry about spending it unwisely or too quickly--rather than seeing it as the blessing it really is.  I fret, I stress, and I panic, even when I see God blessing us through it.

So, I am claiming today's verse as my own, one I want to commit to memory to help me overcome this stronghold:

Mark 4:19--The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

I totally see my mind going in all of those directions when it should be going straight to God first thing every day.

Instead of focusing on the worries of this life, fretting over a lack of or even an abundance of money, or thinking about more stuff that I want, I came up with a list of ways God has blessed our family this summer alone.

2014 Summer Blessings

  •  A gym membership, giving my boys an incredible bonding opportunity
  • Feeling healthy again, reenergized
  •  An abundance of work-out clothes that a friend passed to me a year ago
  • Coffee dates with friends
  •  A friend's gift toward our family vacation
  • Family camping time
  • An adorable little camper
  • Church camps for the boys
  • $ to pay for the boys' camps
  • Juan David making so many new friends
  • Juan David's English suddenly improving by leaps and bounds
  • David's desire and opportunity to serve on a mission trip this month with other middle school kids
  • New floors in the house
  • Bedroom makeovers
  • Our adoption tax check
  • Opportunities to improve the health of our home and family
  • An amazing group of ladies for Bible study
  • A publisher (friend) to work with to publish my books together as a set
  • Writer's group--a constant inspiration and learning experience
  • Our amazing church, Lifegroup, and small group
  • Watching my boys bond more every day 
  • David's indoor soccer experience
  •  Getting to know the Colombian family with boys on David's soccer team

It's amazing how our whole mindset can change when we focus on our blessings.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy birthday

Wishing a happy, happy birthday to my dad today!  Thanks for your constant faithfulness to God, your wife, your children, your grandchildren, and your furry companions.  Hope you have a great day today!  Love you. I wish that our summer could be longer and our bank account fuller so we could make a trip up to see you again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Healthy Home

Our main goal this summer.  This was a crazy, chaotic year getting used to all the changes that came into our lives as a result of adopting a "child".  The year before that--so incredibly hard and stressful just trying to maneuver through the international adoption process all over again with no idea how to make it work financially.  We're grateful to have it all behind us, grateful to have Juan David home finally, grateful to be rebuilding our finances, grateful to be bonding seemingly well as a new family unit.

We had to work so hard to get through the last two years that we ended up ignoring other areas of our lives.  Like....home repairs, physical health, vacations, etc.  So this summer, for once, we've made it all about us--our family and our home.

So far, we repainted two rooms.  We tore out the carpet in most of the house and replaced it with a nicer flooring that doesn't stink, isn't damaged, and is consistent throughout most of the house.  (Still working on finishing up two more rooms).  We went camping and have another camping trip planned. We sent the boys to an amazing week of church camp, separately. (So good for both of them, plus it gave us one on one time with each of them.) David gets to participate in indoor soccer with his team for the first time.

Yesterday, we joined the gym!  It's definitely been too long since I've been to a gym.  It feels so good to complete a cardio workout, develop a routine with weights, relax in the pool and hot tub, and do something that's taking care of me. The boys absolutely love it.  I think it will be good to break up our days, give them something to look forward to every day, and it gets them helping out more around the house in the mornings so we can leave sooner.  (We let them know exactly how much it is costing us so they can understand the need to show gratitude by helping out more at home.)  Plus I don't have to listen to Juan David beg to go swimming at someone's house because now he knows we'll get to go swimming every day.  (I think the boy is part fish.)  He and David stay together and do most of their workout together.  It's cute to watch them running side by side on their treadmills. 

The age difference has obviously been a big challenge for David, but I think sometimes he likes having someone to look up to.  Juan David is really good with him because he was used to having a sister David's age.  We know that within a year from now, life will change even more.  Juan David will likely have a summer job and will be driving, so this is a great time to keep them bonding for now. 

That's our summer in a nutshell, so far.  Focusing on a healthy home.  I don't know that I'm getting the rest I so desired, but I'm definitely feeling refreshed.