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, November 26, 2016

A family meal

I believe very strongly in family meal time. I am not a very creative cook nor do I ever produce any kind of extravagant, mouth-watering meals, but I do plan out our meals very precisely for each week, taking into account whether or not we have time to wait for something to come out of the oven or whether or not we have to eat quickly and rush out the door.

I always try to make sure we avoid everyone eating their own thing at their own time. Even for lunch in the summers. We sit down, pray together, and eat together. The only time that changes is when one of us has to work in the evening, and then their meal is saved for them in the fridge.

When Juan came, family meals became even more important to me. First of all, because I had to find some way to control Juan's portion sizes. It's not an easy task for him to know how much is enough. Second, I needed to show him that food and meals would always be available and prepared for him, a concept that most children learn at a very young age in the presence of a family. As his mother, I would always be there to provide for his most basic needs. Now, it isn't always easy to provide a prepared meal for a teenager when it's the age that most "kids" need to learn how to do all that on their own, so we've had to find a balance, especially with David in the house, too. There are definitely times when I go on strike for the ungrateful spirit that suddenly demands I make breakfast and lunch, and the laziness that I see in both of them as they sit on the couch and gripe because no one made them lunch. But when we don't all eat together, I definitely miss that spirit of togetherness and family time. I don't want to ever lose it, especially since we have so few years left before they both begin their own adult lives.

At my school, we follow a Breakfast in the Classroom program where a free breakfast is provided for each child when they walk into the room. They serve themselves one of everything provided (in individually wrapped packages-- such as cinnamon rolls, mini-pancakes, oatmeal cookies, sliced apples, applesauce, juice, milk, fruit, etc.). The purpose is to help all students start out the day right with a good breakfast. (I will refrain from sharing my own opinion on the program.) As I watch my kids literally nibble on their breakfast each morning, it is quite evident that family meal times are quickly disappearing in our fast-paced, over-commited society. They don't know the basics about how to eat without getting crumbs absolutely everywhere, how to eat and still have a conversation at those at the table with them, nor do they understand the concept of time passing. If I put songs up on the overhead screen for the ones who actually finish, the rest of them just sit there, staring at the screen without opening their mouth or taking a sip of their drink. I've even asked them if they eat at a table with their families, and they've told me no. They eat in front of a television, or at a table with an electronic gadget beside them.

It's downright frustrating as a teacher, wondering how much time I can allow to pass to convince them to eat rather than throw their untouched food in the trash can, yet still guard enough time to complete everything we need to academically for the day. It's definitely a battle I struggle with every single day. But more than the frustrations from a teacher's perspective, it saddens me to know why I am facing this battle--families just don't do family anymore. Everyone is running in their own direction or their eyes are too glued to some electronic gadget, be it a TV, laptop, cell phone, or ipad.

Getting together with an even bigger family can get complicated, but I am so thankful we commit to doing so every Thanksgiving. It's around the table that we can enjoy delicious food and also compliment the person who took the time to prepare it. We learn table manners, table etiquette, portion control (at least until the entree has been passed around to everyone at the table), and we learn how to converse and eat at the same time. And we practice gratitude by thanking God for the meal before we even take a single bite.

I am so thankful for all the Thanksgivings we spend with family, despite all the scheduling challenges and personality conflicts that might arise over trying to plan it. Somehow we always find ourselves around the table together and devour all the food in front of us, every year.

Mike decided to attempt smoking the turkey this year, so he got up at 2 a.m. to start it, and then continued to check it every hour or so until it fully cooked. He had no idea how it would turn out and it cooked much faster than he predicted, but the end result was amazing. We all agreed that it was the best turkey we have ever had for Thanksgiving together. Looks like Mike's got a new job every year now.

Here we all are around the table, enjoying our smoked turkey, roasted veggies, salad, macaroni and cheese, rolls, breadsticks, banana bread, and mashed potatoes. For dessert, red velvet cake and pumpkin pie, with coffee, of course. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Just a few things to be grateful for

I started a daily gratitude journal a couple years ago as part of my first encounter with the Daniel Plan, and it literally changed my life. I start out every single day writing down anywhere from 5-15 things I am thankful for before I do anything else. Sometimes I've got big things to thank God for, like an answer to something I've prayed about for a long time. Other times I remember to thank God for things I've had to live without at certain points in my life, so I no longer take them for granted. Still other times I'm thankful for what could've gone wrong, but didn't. I'm thankful for the roof over my head, the coffee brewing, the food in my refrigerator, the warm pajamas I'm wearing, and the clothes in my closet. If I'm struggling to think of things, I just look around and write down what I see around me and the memories that those items hold.

Today I'm writing my gratitude journal on my blog rather than in my notebook. If you haven't started a similar practice (even just orally rather than in writing), I challenge you to do so. It really can change your mood, your day, your year, and your life.

  1. Today I'm thankful for my husband cooking the turkey this year on his smoker and for his dedication to get up several times during the night to check on it.
  2. I'm thankful to spend Thanksgiving with my family, my brother's family, and my parents.
  3. I'm thankful for my parents' dedication to come visit us once every year, even when times are tough.
  4. I'm thankful for this past year of abundance to enjoy with my family after a year of great financial stress due to unemployment.
  5. I'm thankful for the commitment my husband and I made nearly a year ago to start going out on weekly dates and for how much closer it has brought us together.
  6. I'm thankful for my boys. I love them both so dearly, even if they are stubborn teenagers sometimes.
  7. I'm so thankful for the privilege of raising Juan David as my son.
  8. I'm so thankful for our continued relationship with Julian, even from a very far distance.
  9. I'm overjoyed to see both Juan David and Julian reconnect with their sister after all this time.
  10. I'm so, so, so thankful God is allowing me to see new pictures just this morning of the little girl I loved and lost, to see the mother that God chose for her and the life that God planned for her, to see the fruits of my continued daily prayers for her. ( I keep remembering this page in my first book, Unexpected Tears, when we wondered if that was the last any of us would ever know anything about her).
  11. I'm thankful for constant blessings that keep coming our way, like invitations to big events and activities that don't fit into our normal budget.
  12. I'm thankful the boys finally got to experience Great Wolf Lodge with friends and people who enjoy them.
  13. I'm thankful I got to attend the women's retreat, Abundance, where I heard Lisa Harper tell her adoption story again and Natalie Grant sing her newest song King of the World. I am thankful for my dear friend who paid for my ticket and hotel room that evening.
  14. I am thankful for my boys "extra set of local grandparents" who spoiled them for their birthdays.
  15. I am thankful for friends who buy me Scriptural coloring books because they know it's a pasttime I've come to greatly enjoy.
  16. I am thankful for my church, who truly is like family to me.
  17. I am thankful for my job and the influence I get to have on the littlest students in our building, along with their parents.
  18. I am thankful both of my boys had the opportunity to work this year so they can learn more about money management and understand why we don't buy them everything they want.
  19. I am thankful for this long week off of work to rest, recuperate, and regroup.
  20. I am thankful for a God who loves me tenderly, who hears my whispered prayers, who sees me, who brings me unexplicable peace, who is sovereign and trustworthy--all the time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rocking Ordinary

What can I possibly accomplish with my extra time if I give up Facebook for a few days or weeks? I picked up a book and started to read! Imagine that.

I went to my new friend, Lee Ann Garfias' book signing last Thursday and finally bought my own copy of her book. I will have to admit--I thought it would be geared more toward moms of younger children or moms who stayed at home. I could not have been more wrong.

This book touched me deeply in ways I never expected. Lee Ann has such a great sense of humor that keeps you chuckling through every chapter, while at the same time she shares on such a deep and transparent level that draws you in close, making it so hard to put the book down. I picked it up this morning, thinking, "I'll just read another chapter or two." By the time I got up from my chair, I was about four chapters away from finishing the book. 

Having just written a blog post the other day about how I need to learn to budget my time in the same way I budget my money, I loved reading a whole chapter today in Lee Ann's book about precisely the same things, comparing our time to our money and learning how to "live within our means" and "not go into debt." It challenged me to carefully consider the cost of each activity I commit to so I can see how overspending my time can affect all areas of life. Some activities are just more expensive than others and cost a whole lot more energy. I need to take that into account when I know I've planned something that will take more out of me so I still have enough left to take care of myself and my family at the end of the day. It also inspired me to plan for an entire day of rest after a particulary stressful or draining activity. It's amazing what a rested body, mind, and soul can accomplish over a tired, weary one. 

While browsing Amazon this Christmas season, make sure to order your own copy of this book and maybe a few extras for your friends. You won't regret it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Another momentous day

I looked at the calendar today and realized it was another one of those momentous days, as described in detail in my book Unexpected Tears. The day Colombia officially said no and closed our case. I will never forget that day, the weight of sadness that it carried, or the emptiness that followed it.

And in my foolish thinking, I wondered if our paths might ever cross again.

Here I sit today, November 20th, seven years later, staring at yet another picture in my e-mail of a beautiful teenage girl who just sent a picture of herself to her brother, Juan David, my son. She resembles Juan David in some ways, but her smile reminds me so much of Julian's beautiful smile.

In August of last year, as I sat outside on my back porch praying for my boys, for Julian, and for her, I begged God to bring her back into Juan's life somehow, or to at least just give us a picture of her.

That same day, someone posted on a Facebook group about how to go about requesting your child's complete file from Colombia, with the name and e-mail address of the person to contact, along with a sample letter of what to write and include. I'd heard of people finding more information about sibling adoptions in their files, so I crossed my fingers and sent my e-mail request for his file that very day.

I didn't hear back immediately, but when I did, I read these words: Do you just want your child's file, or do you want to attempt to find biological family, too?

Immediately I connected the dots, seeing this as a direct answer to my prayer out on my back porch that day in August. This was going to be our way to find his sister again.

A few months later, we received his file, but they gave no guarantee about when or if his sister's family would respond to our request for them to be in communication again. After nearly a year of waiting, we both gave up hoping that we'd ever hear anything. We'd wait a few years and then attempt to find her some other way.

Then much to our surprise, a picture and a letter arrived in my e-mail inbox, and communication is now slowly taking shape between them. I am absolutely thrilled for them, and for Julian, too, who will soon join this communication loop.

Their communication won't always go through my e-mail, but I'm so thankful that God chose for it to start this way, almost as a gift to me, especially on these last few momentous days. Makes me remember and relive so much. She's so much more than Juan David's long lost sister.

I am obviously not involved in their new communication, nor should I be. I was not the mother God chose for her. God just used me to love her while she didn't have one. But what a priviliege it is to be fully present now, watching God write this chapter of their story, bringing them back together. It is a gift, one I could not be more thankful for this week at Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Growing up

My dear, sweet little boy is growing like a weed, reminding me often that I seem a bit shorter every day. Ugh.

And today he turned 15. I'll have to admit, I like the sound of 15 over 14. A bit more mature, I guess. Not so awkward. A little more confident in who he is rather than in just the things he can do. Even the girlfriend issue doesn't seem as scary at 15 as it did at 14.

Fifteen years ago, very late into the night after an extremely long 23 hours of intense back labor, they stopped my labor and said we'd do an emergency c-section as soon as the surgeon was free. Little did we know the danger that hung over both of our lives every time I pushed. Had I pushed much more, I would have burst my uterus and could have bled to death. And David's shoulder would have been crushed on his way out, putting his little life in danger, as well. The crooked placement of his little body inside my womb left him literally stuck, so he wasn't going to come on his own, no matter how hard I pushed.

I'm so thankful for the doctor who made that call and for the surgeon who delivered David via c-section late that night on November 16th, 2001. One of the scariest days of my life, and by far one of the best. Before midnight came, I held that tiny baby in my arms and never wanted to let him go.

Fifteen years later, I'm still struggling to let him go. Mike and I alternate taking him to school in the mornings, but I cherish the mornings that I get to take him, despite how rushed I feel having to leave so early. We always have such deep talks about anything and everything under the sun, we always say we love each other when he gets out of the car, and my eyes almost always fill with tears as I watch him walk into his high school each morning and silently pray for him.

I'm so proud of how well he's doing in school now. Took him a bit to figure himself out, but he's found his rhythm now, his group of friends, and he conveniently remembered just how highly capable he is in school.

We finished up this month of birthday celebrations by taking him out to one of his favorite restaurants, Country Burger, on Sunday afternoon. I made him cinnamon rolls for breakfast today, and we went out for ice cream tonight at one of the best ice cream shops around instead of having a cake.

He loved his gifts (an upgraded phone, a new Cowboy's jersey, and an FC Dallas jacket/sweatshirt from his brother--which was a total surprise). Now he's anxiously awaiting a chance to spend some birthday money that came in the mail. :)

Look how much he's changed since his 13th birthday!

And look at the difference in all three of them since our joint birthday celebration just two years ago!

Love all three of them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Longing for simplicity

I'm a minimalist. I don't like to spend money, get involved in every activity under the sun, or keep up with the latest gadgets, gossip, or story.

I live in a small house because I don't see a need for a bigger house. We all fit just fine.

I don't carry a purse anywhere because I don't like having to keep up with anything other than the two necessities, my phone and my wallet. I don't need or want to keep up with anything else.

I'm the girl who threatened my boyfriend in college to not even think about getting me a ring with a big diamond to propose to me because I didn't want to wear anything  "big and gaudy". I'm also the girl who said, "Please don't buy me a dozen roses. One means just as much." Yep, I'm that girl.

A friend once told me, "I'll never forget your wedding. Simple, yet elegant." Simple. Yeah, that's me.

I hate spending money on stuff when I could be using it to enjoy my time with my family or friends, to give toward a new initiative at church, to help someone in need, or to put it towards a new travel adventure to experience another part of the world.

Plus, if you haven't noticed, the more you get, the more you want. It's never enough.

Sometimes we just need to step back, look around, and thank God for everything He's provided and declare that it is enough. Actually, it's more than enough.

I've recently learned the hard way that I need to treat the time I'm given with the same attitude I use to look at money and material posessions. To keep life simple. I mentioned in my Bible study this summer that I just don't know how to be still. There are so many activities and good things to be involved in, but I simply cannot give of myself to all of them. I get bombarded with e-mails and phonecalls on a daily basis from my boys' schools, booster clubs, my own school, athletic organizations, and church people asking for my time and/or money to support this or that cause. They're all good causes, too, which makes it so hard to eventually push that delete button on some of them and just move on.

I long for simplicity, but in order to move in that direction, I need to learn to be a minimalist with my time, picking and choosing carefully (and prayerfully) as to where I should devote my time, attention, and energy. Because, quite frankly, I am really tired. All the time. So tired that I can't focus long enough to do something I really enjoy, and I don't end up enjoying anything that I am doing because I'm spread too thin.

October is always a hard month for me. I am an introvert, and certain types of social interaction can suck the life out of me. Hanging out in large crowds or having to make small talk with people I am not close to are two examples of such interaction. Forty-four parent-teacher conferences would fall into that "having to make small talk with people I'm not close to". I truly need extra alone time to recharge my batteries during and after those conferences. Unfortunately, October is always full of a ton of other activities, as well, in all areas of life. I cringe every time something else gets added to the calendar, knowing it's going to be tough, and then I always suck it up and say, "It's okay. I'll make it through. I don't want to miss it."

This year  I think I said yes a few too many times. When I found myself taking a 20 minute nap in the car to make it through Bible study, I should have listened to my body and gone home. Or when I drove home from a church function in tears, I should have realized that I couldn't handle another activity. I just about snapped.

I should have taken an inventory at the beginning of the month, knowing the strain that those parent conferences put on me, and I should have decided on a few minimal activities. Then I should have put my foot down and said no to all the rest. I should have said no to the weekly Bible study, at least for the month of October, and done the study on my own. I should have said no to teaching the Daniel Plan or asked to do it during a different time of the year. I should have said no to the staff dinner out to celebrate Christmas in October. I should have said no to the movie night at church whether it was my favorite movie or not. I should have stayed home more from soccer practice and missed a few soccer games so I could have truly enjoyed the ones that I made it to. I should have spent those Wednesday nights alone with God, letting Him lead me through the study rather than feeling like I needed to be with a group of women. I love women's Bible study groups more than anything, but there are times in my life when I need to listen to the body that God gave me and learn to let it recharge.

As October began nearing the end, and the activities kept piling up, I finally learned a very important and courageous word. No. No to the Fall Carnivals at church and school. No to volunteering for fund-raising activities and extra trainings at school. No to extra women's ministry events at church that drew crowds rather than small groups (the type of activity that drains me). I also learned a powerful action--delete. It's okay to delete those e-mails when I know those activities just don't fit into my season of life right now.

I said yes to my family, yes to more dates with my husband, yes to birthday dinners every single weekend for Mike and the boys, yes to an intimate weekend with close friends, yes to a prayer meeting for the ministry that published my books for me, yes to being a calmer and healthier teacher for my kids. Yes to finding and celebrating simplicity.

I keep thinking about that conversation I had in Bible study this summer when I admitted that I just don't know how to be still. Maybe God's trying to tell me something.

After I post a few pics and thoughts from David's birthday this week and stalk Instagram for pictures of the boys on their high school retreat with church over the weekend, I'm taking a needed break from all social media except for my blog for awhile, perhaps until the end of the year. We'll see. I think I need the time to focus on learning to be still, to be quiet, to pray, to simplify, and mostly, to listen.

When I woke up this morning sore all over from coughing all night long, I decided to listen this time, rather than push forward. I put in a request for a substitute and decided to stay home. A day of solitude with the chance to take a nap any time I want. Hanging out on the porch with all three of my animals, soaking up the sunshine and unusually beautiful November weather. I'd say it's just what I've been needing.

In fact, I think I'll go cuddle up with my kitty to take another nap before the boys get home shortly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Review

Today's review of the Surviving the Valley Series comes again from Charlie Rae. I think it speaks for itself. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear friend.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Another one of "those" days

November 6, 2009. 

It was a short, sweet conversation. I told him happy birthday and asked him if he'd opened his gift from us, a small blue Texas keychain with little diamonds marking the location of Austin, where he'd stayed for 5 weeks with the hosting program, and Dallas, where we lived, which was supposed to be the home that awaited him. He said he did and that he'd worn it clipped to his pants all day.

We both knew at this point that the adoption was not going to happen, after all, but neither of us were at liberty to mention it to the other one. I wondered how many more times I might even be able to call him after that night. He already knew that this was the last conversation he'd be able to have with me.

We talked a little bit about his brother's gift for him, and then I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me in return. We said goodbye, and though I still tried to call him several more times throughout the month, they never let me talk to him again. He knew I still tried to call, though, whether I ever knew that on my end.

Now here we are this weekend, 7 years later, celebrating his birthday together with him for the fourth time. I can't tell you how many mixed emotions I have as a mom watching my son turn 19 years old, knowing that I didn't get to celebrate the first 15 birthdays with him. Better late than never, though. I'm so thankful that God didn't leave this date as the day we said goodbye. Rather than a date to grieve over, we get to celebrate it. For the rest of his life.

 The newer Colombian jersey he's been wanting.

The windbreaker David got for him (that they went shopping for together a few weeks ago).

An upgraded phone that he's waited patiently for. 

A photo book of all of his Senior pictures

David's turn for an early gift (an upgraded phone, as well).

Then a nice lunch out for Colombian food at a restaurant that opened the year he was born.

With one of his good friends from school, Cesar (trying Colombian food for the first time).

 Drinking his all-time favorite fruit juice, jugo de guanabana.

You can take a boy out of Colombia, but you can't take Colombia out of the boy. :)

I sure do love him and still get teary-eyed over the fact that God gave him back to us, that God did indeed choose us to be his parents, after all.