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, January 31, 2015

February highlights

February looks to be a full month ahead of us. I look forward to attending many of the boys' soccer games, celebrating Valentine's Day with my sweetheart, my boys, and my students, and to meeting with the parents of my students for our spring conferences (the conference marathon can drain me now that I have what seems like a zillion students, but I really do enjoy meeting with the parents). I'm not-so-looking forward to a day (hopefully just a day) of jury duty, but I am quite excited about the two biggest highlights for the month.

This weekend at church, I will be hosting the table for the Adoption Ministry at our church. I love how the number of adoptive families at our campus has grown in the last two years. I'm especially looking forward to advertising for our upcoming conference at the Rockwall campus later on the 28th of the month. It was at a similar adoption conference back in 2007 where Mike and I committed ourselves to begin the process to adopt an international child. It happens to be the setting of the first chapter of my first book.  I wish I had more time available to volunteer for the actual conference this year, but alas, my plate is full. Here is a link to find out more about it, though. If you live close by, you won't want to miss it! http://www.lakepointe.org/adoptionconference/  (I also found out that our church will be a satellite host for the Empowered to Connect conference later in April of this year. What a great resource for adoptive families!)

The second highlight of my month will be the opportunity to visit and observe at the Ron Clark Academy on February 20th with a couple of other teachers from my school. Ron Clark visited our school district at the beginning of the year and inspired all of us to teach with more passion and enthusiasm than ever before.  He let us see that it's okay to come out of the box a bit, to break the mold that so many teachers get stuck in. I will definitely take pictures and share about it! It will be a real (and rare) privilege that I am very grateful for. Here is a link to find out more about the school. http://www.ronclarkacademy.com/Who-we-are

So, as I plow through a busy conference schedule at school and soccer schedule at home, I will try to keep my eyes on the highlights of the month so I don't lose my enthusiasm. :) Lots of good things coming up!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Colombian friends--all in one day

Thursday morning I woke up feeling a bit tired, a bit drained--just wanting to be comfortable. Having a commitment every single night of the week doesn't always go over so well. So I picked out a colorful, comfortable cotton shirt, and I decided to wear my cute little Colombia earrings (shaped like Colombia with the colors of the flag) and my Colombia bracelet. Little did I know God hand-picked my earrings that morning.  Turned out to be a Colombian kind-of day in more ways than one.

First, Juan David talked excitedly at dinner about meeting a new Colombian friend at school.  Not only is his mother from Colombia, but he also used to attend our church and knew all the same people Juan David knows.

Then, Mike and I went to ReEngage at church shortly after dinner. I noticed a Hispanic lady walk into the room with her husband, and when she sat down beside me, I made a mental note to ask her later where she is from. I could tell by her accent that she was from somewhere besides Mexico. I didn't get a chance to talk to her, but at the end of the meeting, she turned to me and said, "I just want to ask you. Are you from Colombia?"

I knew I hadn't shared anything about our story yet, so I wondered why she asked. "No. I'm not from Colombia, but my son is Colombian and he was raised there."

"Oh. I am from Colombia, and I just asked because I noticed your earrings."

She is from Bogota, and she left her whole family to come here 15 years ago.  She goes back at least once or twice a year. The coolest part of the story was finding out that she is cousins with the mom of Juan David's new friend from school.

We both made new Colombian friends on the same day. Such a small world we live in. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Money Management 101

After watching both boys struggle to make responsible choices in the school cafeteria regarding both health and money management, I put my foot down.  I can thankfully monitor all of their choices electronically, but the minute I have a busy week and don't check, they start sneaking extras. The problem is that the cafeteria just lets their account fall into the negative rather than telling them they are out of money or don't have enough money to pay for it that day. Whenever that happened, they had to use their own money to balance out their account the following Monday. This family doesn't operate on credit, so I didn't like what I saw happening. Ugh.

So, this week I spent the same amount of money as I gave them for their lunches and bought food for them to pack instead.  David doesn't like the cafeteria food anyway, so he didn't have a problem with it. Juan David is all about image, so this didn't make him a happy camper. At all. (Hey, it's not like I didn't warn him multiple times.)

However, today we did a practice run-through for lunch at home on our day off. When the boys saw how much food they get to eat now for the same price (actually less, since neither one consistently stayed on their weekly budget), their attitudes changed significantly. 

"Wow.  Okay, now I like this idea." Juan David commented when he saw that he gets to take two of everything every day.

"Thank you for making me pack my lunch this week, Mommy." David said later as we cleaned up.

I'd say our Money Management class went rather well.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Conflict turned to Blessing

Juan David has been craving a special friendship with someone that he could hang out with ever since he came here. We butt heads over the issue for the whole first year because we simply hadn't bonded yet as a family, so we had to protect our time together.  Plus he didn't seem to understand our rules. #1-We have to know the friend if they're going to hang out outside of school. #2-We have to know their parents. #3-An adult has to be present.

Well, it looks like he finally got his wish this week after a scheduling conflict turned into a blessing. Mike and I had a meeting at church on Thursday night until 8:30, and Juan David had a high school soccer game until 7:30. In order to pick him up, Mike and I would have to miss half of our meeting.  We don't know the other soccer players on this team yet, but I did remember that one of the players is on his other soccer team, too.  We may not know all the families well, but we sure do spend a lot of time together out at the soccer fields during the season. I asked him to ask the other player for his mom's phone number so I could see if she could give Juan David a ride home.

She called me right back, saying, "Sure, we can give him a ride home! You know what, we're having cake and ice cream back at the house when they get home to celebrate my birthday today. Is it alright if he comes over for a bit afterwards to hang out?"

When she brought him home around 9:30, she said, "He is welcome to come over and hang out anytime with us! We love him!"

You know what they liked the most about him? His parents' rules! They said their son has griped and complained about having the meanest parents in the world until he found out that Juan David has all the same rules and guidelines at home. They also found out that they have a ton in common, besides playing on two soccer teams together.

They are currently playing another soccer game this morning, and she already invited him to come over for the afternoon.

Love how God turned our conflict into a blessing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Back to living frugally

It's been a fun season of birthdays, Christmas, visitors and vacation. A little bit of extra spending here, a little bit there. It all added up. Nothing like January than to tighten the reins and get back on a strict budget. Not only will it help us enjoy a fun summer later, but it also helps us focus on gratitude again. Gratitude for all of our new toys and gadgets. Gratitude for the memories we made. Gratitude for enough money to provide for our daily needs. Gratitude for each day we spend together, even if we can't spend more money to eat out, play, go to the movies or go on a trip.

I'm doing a really cool study on Proverbs right now, and it's funny how it seems to speak so directly to my thought pattern each day. If I'm struggling with avoiding gossip, that's the topic for the day. If I need wisdom with parenting and discipline, that's the topic I find for that day. So, you guessed it, when I started cringing this morning over the need to get back on track financially, I opened up to the topic of money!  God wants me to know He can read my mind, I guess. Lol.

I asked God to help us use the need to tighten up the budget as a good teaching tool for the boys.  Rather than just pay for their upcoming soccer registrations and Disciple Now registrations (both due within the next few weeks), I told them they'd need to sacrifice their allowance for the next two months to help us cover the costs from their second soccer team expenses (high school and indoor).  Neither one seemed to have any problem with that.  Rather than run to the store and use my debit card to buy the dish soap I forgot to get at the grocery store, I sent the boys walking to the store with not much more than a dollar in change to bring me back the cheapest one they could find. Rather than pay for David's choir skating party, I said I'd pay half and he'd have to come up with the other half.

It's the little things that add up, and it's a family effort to get back on track. Now that we have a year under our belt and can foresee more of our expenses with two teenage boys, I feel better prepared. I'm all about debt-free-living, and I look forward to planning wisely enough so we can enjoy several of those things on our wish list for the year. I'm also thankful for the Money Matters class that Juan David is taking at school this semester.  Maybe it will help solidify the things we're teaching him at home. Maybe by the time he finishes the course and has had two full years to be part of our family, he'll be ready to start working part-time. The mom in me keeps holding that part of life off for as long as possible, wanting to give him as many fun life experiences as we can before he has to "grow up".

We'll see. :)

Besides feeling better prepared to budget for the year financially, I also feel better prepared to budget my time and plan ahead for busy weeks. Here goes, since soccer goes into full-swing this week. Juan David has four games and David has one indoor game, plus both of them have a separate youth night at church, Mike has a men's night at church, I have  a writer's group meeting, and Mike and I have a couple's event at church.

Looks like blogging will have to go back to once each weekend. :(

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pics from our New Year celebration

My first attempt at making salpicon, a special fruit drink that our friend made us while in Colombia. We didn't have all the right fruits available at this particular time of the year, so I improvised with diced kiwis, pineapples, mangos, grapes, and pears. I added a special soda called Colombiana and mixed it all up together. We all really liked it.  One recipe I saw called for ice cream. Juan David told me it doesn't normally have ice cream on top, but I tried it, anyway, and loved it! We played Spin Uno while eating it.

 We also played Mexican train dominoes and ate some good ol' chips and queso.

 Later we had ice cream with arequipe/dulce de leche/(really good caramel treat from Colombia and Argentina) on top.
 We ate our 12 grapes at midnight while silently making our wishes for the coming year.

 I forced everybody to gather together for our first picture of the year.
We didn't wear yellow underwear, have our pockets full of lentils, or run around the block with a suitcase. But I tried to make sure I added a Colombian twist to our celebration.

Voices playing in my head

I finished that final edit and sent it back to the editor last night. Besides killing adverbs and eliminating a bunch of to be verbs and helping verbs, I followed her main suggestion to add more dialogue.

"I would love to hear the kids' chatter." That's the way she put it.  So, I added bits and pieces of our actual conversations all throughout the book.  I took out some of my voice and added more of their voices.

That proved a more difficult exercise than I thought. I vividly remember those conversations, but rereading them after I wrote them out took me right back into the moment.  I could hear little "Viviana's" voice in every word she said.

Miss that sweet girl. Can't believe she's almost thirteen already. I sure do hope to find her again someday.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lost...and found

I looked at this recent picture and remembered something I wrote about Juan David and his sister in Part two of my first book.  While working on my final edit of the book today, I came across the exact paragraph that came to my mind the other day.

"Grief traveled more levels than I knew. We mourned the loss of the kids’ presence in our lives, along with the loss of an assumed reality. We also grieved for them, knowing only a fraction of their loss. They lost a set of parents, a new brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They ultimately lost the security of a forever family, now for the second time."
Look at that. There he stands with those parents, brother, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins that he lost. And this pic only represents one side of his new family, plus even more on this side that aren't pictured.
Couldn't resist sharing. Now back to that final edit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

First Scripture memory verse of the year

1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV--Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Time to look ahead: My goal for the coming year

Today's entry should be short. I don't like to make concrete plans because God usually has something completely different planned for me than I expect. I think my goals and my wishes from yesterday kind-of coincide, anyway.

My true goal, though, is deeper and not so circumstantial.

Last year I felt God saying two words to me. "Embrace life." So I did. I lived more. I spent more. I lived more on the edge rather than according to a plan. Maybe a little too much in all areas. But as much as I'd like to see a little more money saved or invested in a few areas, I can't deny the blessings that came out of embracing all that life had to offer. 

Letting money sit securely in a savings account would not have given us the cool RV story that we have. No way could our savings multiply like the size of the camper did. Planning a simple vacation over spring break rather than trying to see as many people as possible in ten days would not have given me the opportunity to see my grandfather one more time in his earthly life. Staying home when I felt drained would not have given me the opportunity to meet Stormie Omartian, someone who's had a profound effect on my life. Deciding to forego a writing conference because I already had one too many things on my calendar would not have connected me with a friend starting a publishing company with her husband.

This year I hear God saying two new words to me. "Give more." I don't mean just giving to God what is already His. I mean giving to others. Out of fear and anxiety, I can clutch my belongings and my bank account a little too much.  My pastor called it "white-knuckling" in a recent sermon. I received an abundance of blessings over the last year and ended up hoarding them. This year my goal is to give more out of gratitude to God for what He's given me.

Happy New Year!