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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Friday, July 29, 2016

A different kind of summer

Just me, myself, and I today.

One more day till my boys come back from California.

One more night out with my best friend (my husband).

One more week till I am officially back to work after an interesting summer.

Nothing like a rainy day to sit back and reflect over what we've done as our fourth summer together as a family, our third full summer at home.

This summer felt very different to me. I'm a goal setter. I thrive when I feel like I've accomplished something. Most summers we have a focus and a goal to work toward achieving, either individually or as a family. Like rest, health, on-line classes, home improvement, reorganization, fun activities, etc. This year I didn't write down a single goal.

Most summers I send my boys off to their separate camps during different weeks of the summer and focus on a one-on-one relationship with the one who stays home that week. This year we hung out together and no one went their separate way. It's been about family and togetherness. The boys went to California this week, but they went together. They flew on the same airplane. They rode in the same van, worked in the same group, stayed in the same hotel room, and did pretty much all the same stuff. (BTW, after all their hard work, today they're out touring Warner Brothers Entertainment. Must say I'm a bit jealous now.)

Looking back, I'll have to say that as hard as it is for me to let go of the plans and goals, it makes me feel more grateful for each accomplishment. Less expectation and more fulfillment, I guess you could say. Did I get a lot of writing done? No. Did I make a lot of headway on this whole marketing my books experience? No. Did we do a lot of fun preplanned activities? No. Did I stick to a strict exercise routine to get healthier? No. Did I even ride my bike once? No. Did I get caught up on all the dental work and necessary appointments? No. Did I delete all my e-mails and clean up my inbox? Of course not.

But we did go on a pretty last minute vacation up through Indiana and St. Louis, saw a whole bunch of family, sold a few books and got some free advertising in through a great local newspaper, and we did other random fun things along the way. We spent several days at Six Flags with great friends, rode a whole bunch of roller coasters, and got some silly pictures of ourselves on those said rollercoasters. We now have a nice smoker grill out back to enjoy a lot of good meat for years to come, and we finally landscaped the small section of the backyard that's looked so ugly for so long. Mike replaced Juan's flooring in his bedroom and is down to just one more room in the house to finish. Juan got a part-time job, did some conditioning with his soccer coach, and is in the process of repainting his car (my old Neon) so that he can drive to school this year with his head held high. :) I taught a Bible study to two separate groups of women and saw connections made within those groups that I thank God for letting me be a part of, plus I watched women fall in love with studying Scripture, specifically the names of God. I finally got my author e-mail list set up through Mail Chimp and attached a nice, free resource to it for anyone who signs up (thanks to some amazing coaching from my writing hero, Mary DeMuth, and I slowly, but surely, started tackling a long list of marketing suggestions to spread the word on my books. I drank way too much coffee (on my second cup for the day as we speak), and we ate way too much ice cream. But we had a lot of fun, and I feel very relaxed going back to work in a week. Whatever didn't get done in the summer will get done eventually.

My husband hates lists and calendars, and he hates it even more when I give him a list of stuff to do. Since I didn't give him any lists this summer, I appreciate his hard work for what he did do for us because it wasn't expected. I can't live very carefree during the school year, but it was nice while it lasted. I think I appreciate life a bit more when I'm not setting such high expectations--kind-of like that very first trip to Colombia. (Fourteen days in a foreign country where we knew no one and didn't have a single thing planned. Fourteen of my favorite days ever. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read all about it in my first book, Unexpected Tears.)

One more week. Wonder what we'll do. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In the mail!

Thanks to the nearly 300 people who entered the July Giveaway through Goodreads. The winners were selected and sent to me yesterday, and I mailed the books out today. 😊 Congratulations to Frederick in Oregon, Susan in Utah, and Michael in California. I pray that the book touches you deeply, and I hope you will pass it on to a friend or recommend it to others for me.

I may offer another giveaway in a few months, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Los Angeles Mission Trip

Yesterday, we dropped the boys off at the airport to board an airplane to Los Angeles, California, specifically the Burbank area.

They gave up their yearly camp experience in exchange for this opportunity to not only visit California, but to work alongside Story City Church. They also worked hard for many months doing yard work for several church members, helping a family move, etc., to earn the money for this trip.

This morning their team is helping the church set up and tear down for services, and then throughout the week they will be helping to advertise the church to the surrounding community and will be doing several community service projects. Their main goal--to let people in the area know that Story City Church (http://www.storycitychurch.com) is there. Also, to share their own "story" of how they met Christ.

Here are pics from the airport and a picture. Please pray for their safety while traveling and for God to do amazing things in and through them. I am so thankful for their youth leaders involvement in both of my boys' lives. Their impact on them is amazing.

 All eyes on their fearless leader, Mauricio (so thankful for his impact on my boys!)

 Getting ready to check in their bags for the flight

The mandatory selfie with Mom

Team Pic

Setting up for church bright and early on Sunday morning

 View from the hotel room, I am assuming. :) (Stole it from Instagram)

It's gonna be a quiet week around here, but I love knowing how God is occupying their time. At least I've got plenty to keep me busy around here so I don't miss them too much.

More than anything, I'm thankful they get to do this together. May it be an experience that bonds them in a completely new way as the brothers God has made them. (One more day to enter the July giveaway at the top of this blog for your own copy of Painful Waiting, the story that made my sons brothers).

Thanks for your prayers. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Let's talk about adopting an older child

So, yeah, we did it. We adopted our son just a few months shy of his 16th birthday.

Everything about that statement shouts red flags, proceed with caution, high-risk situation.

Everything about that reality brought challenge.

Everything about it warms my heart and reminds me that with God's strength, we can do anything.

But let's face it, it's been hard on so many levels.

I recently took a poll among a variety of adoption groups to see what one thing parents wish they'd known before beginning their adoption journey. (Join my e-mail list on the left to get the full list!) I got a lot of answers about what they wish they'd known to do differently during the process, during the travel (when international), and about how to prepare for the new realities of life--both good and bad. I am grateful for the raw honesty from those that adopted older children. We can't romanticize it because, quite frankly, it's just not the way it's supposed to be. Children in their late teens should be spreading their wings toward independence, but instead, they are having to learn for the first time what the concept of family really means and why they need to learn dependence first. When most teens their age are having to learn the realities of consequences that follow inappropriate actions, these teens just need the security of love and acceptance, of connection, no matter what. I'm glad these parents shared their biggest struggles with me to add to the list because it helps someone else go into it a little more prepared for the challenges ahead.

As I finalized my list and got ready to publish it in the resource guide below, I received one final response that spoke volumes of truth and really hit home with me.

(Join my e-mail list for your own free guide: http://eepurl.com/b7-Js5)

#25--I wish I’d known how little time I’d actually have to bond with an
older child, due to missing out on those critical childhood years
before school.

My son is now 18 1/2 years old, ready to embark on his senior year of high school. Part of me wishes I could give him the world, shelter him a little longer, protect him from all that life might throw at him. I wish I had more time to fill in all those gaps of the childhood he didn't get to experience like most children. Instead, as I acknowledged that yesterday marked only the third anniversary since he arrived into our home, I watched him drive on his own for the first time. I nagged him about checking his work schedule at his new job. I griped at him about spending his money frivolously because he will soon have to budget his money for gas, car expenses, his portion of an insurance premium, etc. 

I spent the first three years of life with David feeding him, changing him, taking him for long walks, and cuddling next to him to read books.

I spent the first three years of life with Juan defining family roles, battling his desire for freedom and privilege against our own belief that we needed time to solidify as a family first. We battled his natural desire for independence against his unwelcome need to learn dependence on a parent in order to truly feel secure in our home. I stayed in constant contact with his teachers and counselors, making sure he stayed on the right path and took the right courses toward graduation. We exhausted ourselves by keeping up with forever-changing soccer schedules, school activities, and youth functions at church. I hounded him to make a study plan in order to complete a few extra online courses to catch him up at school. My heart was torn when I watched his growing level of disappointment in our financial decisions and our frugal way of living, "depriving" him of all that stuff he thought he'd get once adopted into a family.  

He had high hopes and big dreams, and our lifestyle and standard of living didn't meet up to those hopes and dreams. The first year held constant battle and strife at every turn. Our worlds, including our expectations of each other, clashed with our new reality.  Once the first year turned into the second, we finally started to attach to one another and gel as a family unit. We all knew our roles and settled into them. We found new adventures to embark upon together, and we began to enjoy one another in a new way. Our home language finally switched back to English, with an occasional conversation in Spanish from time to time. 

Yet by the third year, we plowed through driver's ed., helped him get his license, prepared him for the responsibilities of working and managing money, supported him through an exciting soccer season in high school, guided him to keep a close eye on his grades in order to raise his GPA, watched him excel in his classes and pass his state exams, and literally heard him grieve over the reality of growing up. 

I fed him and clothed him (provided his clothes and shoes), but we never took those long walks together nor did we ever have that chance to cuddle up together and read books like I did with David those first three years. I still see so many gaps. and a world of difference exists in my relationship with my two boys strictly because of the time I had to grow and attach with David as a child that I did not have with Juan. I can't change that. I wish we could spend time playing games, riding bikes, going for walks, reading books, and just having fun rather than prepare for adulthood by entering the workforce, budgeting, driving, passing tests, and thinking about financial aid and college options. It all seems too soon for it only being our fourth year together.  But I can make sure that I use every opportunity I have over the next year to model, model, model, and hope he's watching intently. 

When I get to feeling like I was robbed of precious time with him, I remember his older brother at the same age. Just two months shy of 19, he exited the system and walked out into reality--all alone. No job. No money. No furniture. No home. No family. I'm grateful to have the chance to walk Juan into adulthood, teaching him and preparing him in ways I couldn't do for his brother.

It's a challenge, and it's hard. But so worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A little blog remodeling

I'm so glad you stopped by my blog today. I've definitely slacked off on writing much this summer--on my blog and just in general. Not sure what's up, other than a sense that God is leading me to redirect and refocus before I start writing again.

As you can see, I made a few changes on this blog. If you look toward the top, you'll see a link for a free giveaway through Goodreads. If you haven't clicked it yet, go ahead and do it so you can get your name entered for a chance to win a free copy of Painful Waiting.  The contest will end before the month is over, and there will be three winners.

If you look to the left, there are two pictures you can click on for a free resource. Not only will you get the free guide with practical ways to grow in your faith (top one) or with lists of helpful insights to help a pre-adoptive family (bottom one), but you'll also get my newsletter every 6-8 weeks with helpful tips, stories, articles, etc. addressing the same topics. It's a great way for me to stay in touch with you and to build community among others who share the same interest. If one of those areas appeals to you, click on the picture right now to sign up! Let me know what you think of the free guide that arrives in your inbox after you sign up.

If you scroll down close to the bottom of the blog and look to the left, you'll see a list of devotionals and Bible studies pictured. These are all some of the studies that I've led at my church or that have helped me personally grow in my faith. In fact, I'm currently leading the top one, I Know His Name, by Wendy Blight at my church, and I'm so thankful for the way our group of women is growing both spiritually and in fellowship with one another. I am a very firm believer in the power of a community of women who study the Word together. If you see a study or book that you think you can benefit from, just click on it to order it straight from Amazon. I will be periodically adding links to more as I continue to attend, teach, or read others in the future.

Also on the left-hand side, you'll find links to a Community Moms blog, other faith-inspiring stories, plus my Pinterest boards. Feel free to look around and click here and there to see what other links I might have added. I tried to make it as user-friendly as possible, even though I'm still trying to figure it all out myself. I hope it's not too "busy", though.

So, now that I've had some time to refocus, I think most of my writing now will focus on the areas of adoption (pre, post, and personal experience as an adoptive family) and Bible study/spiritual growth. I will likely write less frequently in order to soak up as much time as possible with my growing boys now that they are both in high school. I can hardly believe college is literally right around the corner for Juan David!