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, May 31, 2015

Divine connections

Nearly eighteen years ago, I boarded a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina to fulfill a dream to finally be bilingual. Little did I know that my son would be born two months later on the same continent, nor did I know that another five year old little boy in Colombia would one day call me Mom and would one day take advantage of the connections I'd make in those three months in Argentina.

Fast-forward to the age of Facebook and social media. Not only did I build a relationship with that "little boy" (now a young adult) through Facebook and eventually adopt his younger brother, but I also found and reconnected with old friends that I attended church with in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now fast-forward to April of this year, when I finally had the money to book tickets to take Juan David on a short trip back to Colombia to visit his brother. We were so excited to set a date to go back, until Julian told us some unexpected news.

"I want to start a new life, to make something of myself. My friend and I have been planning and saving for a whole year, and now we are purchasing airline tickets to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina to study. Just like you did. If things work out for me there, I may not ever come back to Colombia."

What? We thought he was crazy, and Juan David and I did everything we could to try to convince him this was a big mistake. There are just too many legalities and work issues and money issues, too many things that he could not foresee. But, alas, we could not talk him out of it. So I told him if he insisted on making this decision, I would pray for God to go with him, to protect him, to take care of him, and to guide him. (Mind you, he's been mad at God for two years now, ever since it didn't work out to bring him here with his brother).

So my thoughts toward the whole situation shifted.  He could have picked any city out of any country in the world (or even in South America), and he picked the one city where I happened to have lived and happened to know people. In fact, thanks to Facebook, we're still connected.

On May 16th, Julian boarded a plane (for the first time in his life) and landed in Buenos Aires. He had a rough start, but he and his friend found a place to stay and are starting to get to know the city. Within a few days, he wrote me to ask for the address of the church I attended (Iglesia de la Esperanza). I sent a few messages back and forth with a friend who still attends and serves there, and today Julian visited and sent me a picture of the church after the service.


I don't know how God will lead my dear son from here, but I am humbled to know that God used my experience in Argentina 18 years ago to connect Julian to a church filled with people that love the Lord. And he just got there two weeks ago today.  At least I know he's starting out okay, and God definitely still has His hand on that boy.

Smart boy

So proud of this guy. He's been in the country for less than two years, and he's only been speaking English for less than a year. This was his first year in a regular high school (as opposed to the newcomer high school he attended last year), and we warned him it would be much, much harder this year.

I stand corrected.

He survived the year with all A's and B's, achieved the highest rating of English in all areas (Advanced High) on his TELPAS exam (a yearly rating on how a student is doing in listening, speaking, reading, and writing--the teacher rates all areas except for reading), and he passed all three of his STAAR tests--Algebra, Biology, and English 1 (three out of five state tests that he has to pass to graduate).

He played JV football for his school (and decided not to continue it next year), he played JV soccer and was voted Defensive MVP by his teammates, and he got accepted into the soccer athletics class for next school year (which means he might play Varsity next year).

He sure is a great kid and just as smart as he tried to tell me when he first came home. A year ago, I wrote about waiting for the moment that the reality of his adoption would hit me. Now, a certain phrase goes through my head every morning when I drop him off at school, every time I take him to a church event, every time I watch him play soccer . . . it is a privilege. It is such a privilege to be his mom.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Recognition of a foreign adoption decree

Over the last two years, our social worker mentioned the idea of a doing a re-adoption process for Juan David now that he is in the United States. I knew that his adoption was full and final in Colombia, though, and a re-adoption is not even necessary in the state of Texas, so we just smiled and dismissed her idea. Getting him home after five long years was traumatic enough on our family.

Thankfully, I follow posts on a group with other parents who adopted from Colombia, and I learned that we only needed to file for a recognition of his adoption in order to get him a Texas birth certificate (which will just make life a bit easier for him in the future). I told our social worker that we planned to do that, and she looked at us like we were crazy. "I've never heard of anyone not readopting their children after they come home." Well, for some international adoptions, that may be the case, but I knew that it just wasn't necessary after Juan David's adoption.  She gave me a list of lawyers to call for advice on the matter.

So, I started calling. The first one wanted to make contacts in Colombia to reterminate parental rights! Um, no. Totally not necessary. Plus she wanted $1800.

The second one didn't think it necessary to reterminate the parental rights, and her fees only came up to $1145, but she wasn't very close to home.

The third was back in my own county, but $200 more.  The fourth completely understood the difference between a re-adoption and a recognition, so she required less documentation. But her fees started at $1500 in addition to filing fees, plus she recommended I find someone else in my own county so I didn't show up late for the hearing due to traffic. After I called three more lawyers, I found even more determination to find a cheaper and less complicated route. I researched as much as possible on-line by finding other people's blogs that explained what they did, I made countless unanswered phone calls to my district clerk's office, and I finally pieced it all together to figure out how to do the paperwork and file it on our own, without a lawyer.

Well, guess what? Last Wednesday, Mike, Juan David, and I appeared before the judge on our own and walked away with a legal recognition of Juan's adoption. $333 in filing fees. $4 for extra copies. Considering Mike is out of work for the time being, I'll consider that money saved as a bit of extra income to give him some more time to find the next job God has for him.



 The actual process and documentation were super easy and painless. The research, phone calls,  misinformation, and lack of guidance all made it hard and complicated. I am thankful for the few blogs I found with the right information, so I hope this blog post can help another adoptive parent some day. If you are that parent, feel free to leave me a comment so I can give you more specific info. about what we did.



Pancakes and eggs

 Yesterday morning, Juan David and I enjoyed a nice breakfast together at Applebee's while the middle school Colorado team served us as a way to raise money for their upcoming mission trip.



 
According to the youth pastor's assistant, the morning turned out quite successful. The place was packed for the last hour, and the students worked really hard.
 
As a bonus, we went to church last night to hear our pastor announce that we had a guest speaker for the evening--the pastor from Front Range Christan Church in Castle Rock, Colorado (the church where the kids will be serving in July). How cool is that? I am really excited for David to be part of this team. I love how his heart keeps growing with a passion for missions.  Who knows what God has in store for his life.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seasons of change

Plans, plans, plans. Who doesn't make plans for the summer? Especially a teacher!

Our plans included sending the boys to camp, taking Juan David to Colombia to see his brother, sending David on a mission trip to Colorado with the middle-schoolers from church, traveling to Pennsylvania to let Juan David meet the rest of my family, finishing up our last bit of post-adoption paperwork for Juan David, teaching a Bible study, camping, and just living up our summer together. We told Juan David that this will be his last summer to just "enjoy" before getting a part-time job to start learning some adult responsibilities (he'll be 18 in November). I looked forward to the summer to just enjoy him and his presence in our family.

Timing didn't work out for our Pennsylvania travels, though, and neither did our plans to return to Colombia to see Julian. Then we started talking and dreaming about going to the beach somewhere. David has never even seen the ocean once in his life yet, so a beach trip seemed appropriate.



Good thing all we did was dream, though, because we can no longer plan out much of anything for our summer. Now we are living through a season of change with unexpected unemployment, so very few of those plans will actually make it to fruition. 

419EventTrek
 
       419EventJourney
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                Middle School - Castle Rock, Colorado - July 2015

The boys are still going to camp, David is still going on the mission trip, and I am still teaching a Bible study. Plus we meet with the judge this week to get that last piece of post-adoption paperwork signed. As far as our family vacation goes, we are counting on God to show us His plans when it's time. We are at peace. God provided income for the last three weeks, and He has provided enough for several more. If it's taught me anything, it's that I need to just live one day at a time.

I now spend my morning drive each day listening to Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Every day she reminds me that God is in control. He pursues me every second of every day, constantly wanting to reveal Himself in a new way. When I worry or fret or over-plan, I miss what God might want to show me or how He might want to express His love for me in the moment. When I spend my energy just trusting Him and seeking Him, I find  things to be grateful for in every situation or circumstance.

 

He always takes care of us. Good care of us. I am expectantly waiting to see all the ways He will choose to do so until Mike finds new employment.  It's scary, of course, but every once in a while, a season of change is good for everyone. By June, we'll be seeing a new principal at our school, a new pastor at our campus at church, a new chapter in Julian's life (as he attempts to settle into a completely new area to continue his studies), and hopefully a new job for Mike.

I could fret and let anxiety overtake me, but I choose to embrace yet another season of change and look forward to what is yet to come.


 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Power of prayer


Forgot to share this two posts back about our trip to Starbucks. See those two ladies behind David? They came up to us before we left and asked if there was anything they could pray about for us. We actually have a pretty pressing need right now, so we shared it with them. Right then and there they prayed with us. Not only did it really speak to Mike and I considering the timing, but Juan David made it clearer than clear that he'd never seen or experienced anything like that before. Another reminder that he isn't just part of our story, but we are part of his.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

 It is such an awesome privilege to love and be loved by these two boys and have them call me Mom.

 

I made everybody's favorite for dinner tonight, chicken enchiladas. But this time Juan David watched very intently until he knew what to do, and then he took over! He's ready to make his own enchiladas now someday, all by himself. :)


Showered with love

In all twelve years that I've been teaching here in Texas,  I don't know if I have ever had a class shower me with so much love during Teacher Appreciation week as I did this year. Actually, both classes showered me with love, affection, presents, and appreciation all week.  Here are a few pics to prove it. :)





Our coworkers said our classroom made it look like we robbed a floral shop with all the flowers we both received. 
 This is what I took home with me . . .
 and displayed on my kitchen table.
 This is what I left in my classroom. :)
 
The next day I took home a huge box of perfumes, lotions, and candles. The day after that, chocolates. And the following day, more chocolates, more candles, classroom goodies, and jewelry. Plus I still continued to get more flowers every single day all week. Then Saturday I got to celebrate the week at Starbucks with my three favorite guys in the world, compliments of a gift card from a student.
 

I love summertime, and I love spending time with my boys, but I am sad to think I only have a few more weeks left with my precious four and five year olds.  I love them dearly, and they sure did make me feel loved this week. The flowers alone made my year.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Defensive MVP

Gotta brag on my son. I went to his end of year soccer banquet for high school tonight. I was one proud mom when his coach announced the three awards for the JV team, and he won one of them!  I am so happy for him!

Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.
 
Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.
 
TinaMarie Lazalde's photo.
 
Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.
 
Another one of those moments when I think, "What if . . . ?"
 
 "What if we decided it wasn't worth trying all over again the second time to adopt him?"

Here is a picture from yesterday's game from his recreational soccer team, FC Garland. All of the boys in the picture are on the same high school team, but yesterday they had to play as opponents in the recreational league. Made for an interesting game, especially when the yellow guys won. :)

TinaMarie Lazalde's photo.

Embracing today with gratitude

For some reason, I have a hard time embracing today. I am always looking toward tomorrow (or next month), and I find myself missing out on the joy of right now. My daily gratitude journal helps me immensely in this area because it helps me count my blessings before doing anything else rather than letting the anxiety of all I don't have (or all I still need to do) take over my attitude for the day.

(Yes, I write about that much every single day, first thing in the morning.)
 

Without getting into details at the moment, let's just say our family is dealing with more change and loss again. I have my moments of panic, but for the most part, I feel a very surprising peace about it all. Maybe because people are praying? Maybe because I'm focusing on Scripture and saturating my mind with it? Maybe because I've watched God carry us through so much that I know He'll carry us through this, as well? Maybe because God starts me out each day by reminding me of everything I have to be thankful for?

Maybe for all the reasons above, and probably more.

Today I am choosing gratitude, despite the temptation to focus on what's gone.

Today I am thankful for sunshine, for my front and back porch, and for a restful day. I am thankful for my boys' soccer teams and soccer games, keeping them healthy, motivated, determined, and disciplined. I am thankful for the beautiful weather yesterday that we had while we watched their games yesterday, and I am thankful that they both won.






I am thankful for my family, for the relationship my sons have built as brothers over the last two years. I am thankful they enjoy spending time with each other.

I am thankful for my husband and his commitment to me. I am thankful for the marriage program at church that is helping us be better communicators with each other and better spouses to each other.

I am thankful for my church, my pastors, my Lifegroup, my ReEngage group, my Bible study groups, the student ministry, and the growth that I see in my sons as they faithfully attend and participate in all of the activities and events offered.

I am thankful for my sweet Pre-kinder students and all that they teach me every day. I am thankful to be in a classroom where I can have fun and move around all day. I am thankful for a job that lets me walk away fulfilled at the end of the day, ready to come back the next. I am thankful for my principal's faith in me to teach the babies of the school, to start them out on the right foot.

I am thankful for friends who are always there, to love you through the hard times and celebrate with you in the good times.

I am thankful for my writer's group--for their friendships, their honest critique and feedback, their encouragement, and the opportunities they open up for me.

I am thankful for all our stuff because nearly every item we own came with a story of blessing.

I am thankful for a personal God who knows me fully and loves me deeply. I am thankful to see how God loves me in my own love languages, through quality time and with words of affirmation. He made me a morning person specifically to spend the early morning hours with Him, and He speaks words of affirmation to me through His Word every morning before I start my day. No wonder I am never in a good mood if I get up too late and miss that time. (Watch today's sermon online to understand where I got all that from. Excellent message. www.lakepointe.org )

Gratitude. It does a body good.