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, December 6, 2017

It's all about Jesus

We won't be home for Christmas this year, so we decided against setting up a tree (at least, as of now we decided against it).

I have a growing collection of nativity sets, though, so I did set them up. David and I used a day of our break to put on the Christmas music, clean off the shelves, and put the nativities and a few decorations up.

Outside we put up a lit nativity with a lit cross behind it.

Inside, this is what I put up:

 A little nativity ring dish from a previous student.

 Another nativity box from a previous student (I believe).

 A nativity lamp that I found at a thrift store (two matching ones still in their boxes, one for me, one for my mom).

 Another nativity (that lights up) from a previous student, plus a book about the very first Christmas.

 A small nativity that we bought in Colombia, as well as a small figurine nativity from a student.

  Two tiny, tiny nativities from Colombia (left) and from Spain (right)

 A nativity that one of my Guatemala team members bought for me in the airport in Guatemala.

 The nativity set that I grew up with that my mom passed on to me.

. Another miniature nativity craft that I made with my mom a few years back. It's a little box that looks like a gift, and on the top it says, "The World's Greatest Christmas Gift".

 My annual "Jesus" tree, a small lit-up tree covered in ornaments with a variety of the different names of Jesus.

And this year, I am going through a devotional that my friend gave me, specifically on the names of Jesus. 

Christmas is all about Jesus. The more we seek Him, the more we find Him. The more we find Him, the more we see that nothing else can even begin to compare. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

My Christmas motto

If I learned anything this year, it's this: Memories are far more priceless than material things. Memories live on forever and sometimes feel even warmer and richer with time.

Our family spent a lot of time apart this year for various reasons, so we never did get to take a trip together, just the four of us.

With the airline voucher we got after we were unable to get Julian's ticket to Spain worked out, we had enough money in the voucher for all four of us to go somewhere within a year. A blessing in disguise, I guess. After looking at all we've got going on with school, work, soccer, etc., we figured Christmas made the most sense logistically.

The boys agreed that we'd save our money to enjoy our vacation together and skip the gifts this year. Instead, I'm spending all my time finding hotel deals, rental car deals, and planning fun stuff to do. Feels weird not shopping and picking up gifts here and there, but I will have to say that I like the mentality and the shift in focus. Memories will last forever.

Stay tuned after Christmas to see where we end up going and what all we end up doing. :) We're narrowing down ideas for activities, and tonight's ideas got me pretty excited.

I made a free photo calendar with an offer on Shutterfly, and this is one of my favorite pages on the calendar. This year my Christmas motto is to collect moments, not things.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Joy spelled with 9 letters


Each year I try to choose a word to define the year ahead, a word to guide me through the next twelve months. Last year (2016), I chose JOY. But I looked in all the wrong places for it and, sadly, I couldn't find it. 

At the end of the year, my mom bought me a devotional book for Christas by Sarah Young called Embracing Joy in His Presence (part of the Jesus Always books). Now that I'm coming to the end of the year-long devotional, I've learned the secret to finding that joy I so desired. 

It's only found by sitting at Jesus' feet with a heart of gratitude for all He's done, is doing, and will continue to do. 

It doesn't mean life is wonderfully joyous because I'm grateful. Some days life is just plain hard. It throws curveballs at you that you never saw coming and leave you speechless and heartbroken. Some days life can bore you, leaving you stuck in a rut with no excitement, meaning, or adventure. Other times it's terrifying, wondering which choice ahead of you will lead you in the right direction and what will happen if you make the wrong choice. Or God may be asking you to take up your mat and walk a road that you don't think you have the strength to handle. Or He's asking you to step out in faith to do something that logistically makes no sense at all. 

This year (2017) has been one of the most emotionally diverse years of my life so far, leading me to the highest of highs and to the lowest of lows. But through it all, I found so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude fills me with a joy I can't put words to. 

If you haven't noticed, I don't write much anymore. I only blog when I have something exciting to share or when there's something tugging on my heart that I'm wrestling to process and put into words. I've backed up a few steps, gone against all book marketing advice, withdrawn from a lot of activity, and pushed forward toward answers to things I'd been praying about for a very long time. This year changed me and helped me see and hear God like never before. For that, I am grateful, because that's where I found joy.

Today on Thanksgiving Day, I'm reflecting about the top things in life that changed me the most over the last year. 

  • My adopted son graduated from high school and started his first year of college at Dallas Baptist University. Less than fifteen years ago, Mike and I moved to Texas penniless, deep in debt, and with a very broken marriage. The fact that we adopted a child in the years that followed and actually have enough funds to get him through this first year at a private Christian university is beyond anything I ever could have imagined in those hopeless days. I wish I could say he's doing exceptionally well and thriving, but there's definitely some maturing that needs to take place first before we can see that happen. There's no better place to watch him experience this year of life and freedom, though, than exactly where he is. God has a great plan for him, and I pray that this year transforms him in ways he can't even imagine. For this, I am thankful for how God redeems and restores our broken lives. 

  • My dad is alive and well. No one ever wants to get that phonecall from their mom, hearing the words, "Your dad is in the hospital, and it doesn't look good." It was a day marked on the calendar to celebrate my son's graduation, and instead of preparing for his party with a cheery attitude, I sat in my room sobbing, wondering if I'd ever see my dad again. I waited too long to make a decision to head straight to St. Louis with my brother and sister-in-law, so I thought I'd missed my chance. Thanks to the advice and generosity of friends who attended the graduation party, I made it out on a late flight that night not only to see my dad again the next morning, but to watch him recover more quickly than any of us expected. The road ahead was long and difficult, leading him to retire from his ministry of almost 47 years. Now he's only weeks away from moving here to Texas to begin a new chapter of life surrounded by family. For this, I am reminded to be grateful for each day because each one is a gift. I watched other friends lose a spouse or parent over the last few months, but for some reason, my dad is still here, and God still has plans to use him on this earth. I look forward to having him and my mom close by after many years of living so far apart.

  • I chose to step away from teaching a summer Bible study and decided to travel to Guatemala on a mission trip with my son instead. That trip will follow me for the rest of my life. When I pick up my gratitude journal each morning that I bought in an open air market in Guatemala, I am reminded to be grateful for the clean floor I put my feet on, for the bathroom I used to bathe and shower in, for the stove I used to make my breakfast, and for the clean, fresh water I drank to take my daily medicine and vitamins. I am thankful for the food available for my cat and my dogs and for their health, even if we struggle with bouts of fleas every now and then. Suddenly, my house doesn't seem so small, the repairs don's seem so big, and the messes don't seem so bad. Instead I wake up thankful for a beautiful home, for warm blankets, clean clothes, and healthy food readily available. 

  • Finding Laura again, reuniting her with her brother, meeting her family, spending intimate time with her and her mom in her home, having her back in my own life, not just Juan's--all of the above fills me with more gratitude than I can even contain some days. I look at the pictures of our trip to Spain and catch myself breathless, realizing that all of that really did take place. The pictures we now have are absolutely priceless, treasures that I will never take for granted. God gave her back. He answered my prayer. When I asked Him for anything, even just a picture, to let us know something about her, that was the day He opened wide the door to help us to begin searching for her the right way. Having her in our lives brings me incredible joy, but the greatest joy came from knowing that God heard my prayer and answered me, very specifically, that very day. 

Life still carries struggles, disappointments, heartache, difficulty, exhaustion, stress, and fear each and every day. But in the midst of it, may I never forget what God has done in my life up until now. He's been real, He's been big, and He's always intimately involved. 

It's in the daily practice of gratitude that we find joy. Not just in November. Not just at Thanksgiving. But every single day. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Another milestone

Ten days after Juan David left teenagehood, David celebrated his sweet sixteen. I am still struggling to process this reality. He's not quite ready to get his driver's license yet, but within the next year, he will. And then so much of his dependency on us will change. I don't know that I'm ready for that day, but I know it will be here soon.

I miss my little boy. I love that we have a close relationship, still go for walks together, and talk on such a deep level. I am enjoying this time with just him at home again, and I want to cherish every day, every moment with him. I will not deny that our adoption story really rocked his world. He's been through a lot and had to sacrifice more than many of his peers, including his natural birth order. It wasn't easy for him, but it was God's plan for his life.

Yet it's opened his eyes to the world outside of himself, given him a depth of compassion for others and an understanding of the world that his peers just do not have. It has shaped him into the young man he is becoming. He's grown up knowing what really matters, and I'm so grateful for the way I can talk to him on such a mature level sometimes.

He's by no means a perfect child, but I sure do adore him. I am both loving and hating seeing him grow up. Not many kids can claim the firstborn and the youngest position in the family. He's my baby, and I love him to pieces.

Donuts in the morning

 Dinner and special cake at night

 With a special girl by his side. :)

 Homecoming pics from the weekend before his birthday

Today he's off on his second year of the high school retreat with church, though this is his first year to go without big brother around. Definitely the way he would prefer. And I totally respect that.

He's a busy boy these days!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Need a faith boost?

Last Saturday night I had the privilege of sitting in the 19th annual Roaring Lambs Hall of Fame Banquet as an honored guest (along with a guest of my choice) as they inducted three more well-known Christians into their Hall of Fame, while also launching their second book of Stories of Roaring Faith. My story, The Box on the Shelf, is featured as one of 35 different stories of God working through the faith of His people during unimaginably difficult circumstances to bring about endings we could not see, light we didn't expect to shine, strength we didn't know we had, open doors we thought were shut, guidance when we lacked direction, and peace in the midst of a storm.

I started reading my copy last week, and I am overwhelmed at how encouraged and uplifted each story has made me feel thus far. It is an amazing collection of testimonies of God's people living through the unimaginable and making it through to the other side, stories of steadfast faith that resulted in victory.

This is a book for any audience. For someone in the middle of a trial, feeling lost, alone, and helpless. It's a book for someone still searching, looking for a faith to cling to throughout this life. It's a book for a believer who just wants to renew their faith, be encouraged by other believers' stories, or for an unbeliever who may not know Christ personally yet. There is sure to be a story they can relate to in some way. Medical issues. Health issues. Cancer issues. Parenting issues. Marital issues. Divorce issues. Infedility issues. Grief issues. Adoption issues. Work issues. Drug issues. Home repair issues. And that's only the stories I've gotten through so far in the first third of the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants to be reminded that God is a constant, ever present help in every detail of our lives. And every life, every trial, every story has purpose and can be used to glorify God.

They truly are stories of roaring faith. 
Check it out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Jesus Every Day

I've taught quite a few ladies' Bible study groups over the last seven years. I love getting to know so many women from all walks of life and being used by God to encourage them, mentor them, and guide them in their relationship with Christ. I also love walking around my church and seeing women from various services and various age groups, knowing that we've connected through Bible study.

I did a lot of intense Bible study on my own for years before ever walking into a group Bible study class at church, but no study changed my life like Stormie Omartian's study on the Power of a Praying Wife. Not only did those prayers transform my marriage after several very difficult years, but they showed me what I'd been missing all along in my relationship with Christ. Prayer. Intimate prayer, Scriptural prayer. They taught me how to pray Scripture instead of just giving God a list of requests. They taught me to pray about things I'd never even thought to pray about. My relationship with Christ grew more than ever once I finally learned to pray.

Prayer changes everything.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm when my friend/writing mentor from my writer's group, Mary DeMuth, asked many of us to join her launch group for her newest book, Jesus Every Day. Just like Stormie Omartian's books, it is a book of 365 prayers, all stemming from Scripture, giving you a Scripturally based prayer to start your day for an entire year. The Scriptures start in Genesis and are pulled from books of the entire Bible in order all the way to Revelation. They do not start on January 1, but rather from Day 1, so you can start on any day of the year and read them/pray them at your own pace.

Though the book doesn't come out until the first week of December (perfect for Christmas), I received a sampler of the first 30 days and can vouch that they are a great way to start my day, thanking God for how He worked long ago and how He is still working in my own life today. Pouring out my own insufficiencies and letting Him fill me each morning.

In all the studies I've taught, the ladies will tell me often that their biggest struggle spiritually is maintaining a healthy, consistent, vibrant prayer life. It's our nature to do, do, do, and go, go, go. It's not in our nature to sit still, embrace the quiet, and just pray--though our prayers can accomplish far more than our doing and going ever will.

If prayer is a struggle for you, if you want to learn how to pray through Scripture, or if you just want to enhance an already growing prayer time in your life, I encourage you to check out this book. Just click on the title below the picture. You can wait for its release or preorder today.

Monday, November 6, 2017

20 years ago

Twenty years ago today, I roamed the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina as a foreign exchange student in a study abroad program. At 20 years old, I set out to pursue a dream and to find myself, away from the comfort and stability of home. I sought to find my purpose, while getting the bilingual training I would need to fulfill that purpose.

That same day, another young woman close to my age gave birth to a beautiful little boy up on the northern tip of the same continent in Bogota, Colombia. She and I had nothing in common nor did we have any reason for our lives to intersect in any way. I never met her, but she changed my life that day in ways I never could have imagined. I am thankful for her and think of her often.

Ten and a half years later, God allowed a picture of that beautiful baby boy she'd given birth to to land in my inbox, and I couldn't get him off my mind. For reasons beyond his control, he was living in an orphanage, along with his older brother and younger sister (also pictured), hoping for a family to adopt both him and his sister together.

As soon as I saw their pictures on my computer, I fell in love with both of them. Yet after five years of ups and downs, only he came home to me.

I find myself quite emotional today as I celebrate his twenty years of life, the nine and a half years he's been part of my life and heart, the four and a half years that he's been my son.

Four years were not enough. Not enough to teach him, to nurture him, to love him, to attach to him, to bond with him, to model life for him, to prepare him for the big world out there.

Sending him off to college (even if he's less than an hour away) seems to have widened the gap that already existed between us because we didn't raise him the first 15 and a half years of his life. There are things, people, and experiences that affected him and molded him that I know nothing about. The bond I have with him doesn't even begin to compare to the bond I have with my biological child. Showing up for events at his school make it clearly obvious that our relationship with our son is not like the relationships that the other students have with their parents. Those parents had eighteen years to prepare them. College is a stepping stone toward their independence, preparing them further to pursue their dreams, find themselves, and seek after their purpose in life.

For my son, it was his break toward freedom, freedom he has longed for but isn't quite ready to handle. Trying to figure himself out without a background of consistent nurturing or modeling. A background that makes him see himself as more mature because of his experiences, though those of us in the adoption community know it's a background that left huge gaps in his emotional maturity that he will never see. That mask of arrogance is back up, hiding the lost little boy inside desperately seeking love and acceptance.

Four years were not enough to fill those holes. As his mom, I wish I could hold his hand and guide him through this step in life, knowing the gaps are there. But as a twenty year old, he's going to have to start falling and learning how to get back up on his own. I know those of you without adoption experience are reading this, telling me it's normal for his age. But those of you from the adoption community, especially those of you who have adopted older children, know that our kids' issues are so much more complex than the norm. Those holes in his life will follow him everywhere he goes, through every stage of his life. They will trigger memories they don't want to remember and emotions they don't know they are even feeling.

He's learning, and he's growing. And this is a step that has to take place in his life. I am thankful for the financial possibility this year for him to experience this stage of life on a Christian college campus with a very small teacher to student ratio. He has professors that he can talk to and are willing to work with him. He has a mentor to meet with. He attends a chapel service three times a week with special speakers that are touching his life. He can explore different churches with his friends and attend college age functions. He's free to make choices we didn't give him the opportunity to make at home, which also makes him responsible to face the consequences of those choices.

As a mom that fought and sacrificed for five years to bring home and raise a child only for the last four years of his "childhood", I miss him dearly today. I hurt to see that gap between us widen in order for him to become his own person and find his place in the world so quickly after adopting him.

As a mom that brought a fifteen year old "stranger" into her home just four short years ago, I feel relieved to let someone else guide him through this next stage of life, relieved to be able to put the focus back on my child still at home who longed for that "only-child" attention he grew up with to be given back to him.

As a mom who traveled the world with my son this summer and had the chance to reconnect him with his beloved sister, whom I also will always love dearly, I am grateful for that bonding experience that I will forever cherish.

As a mom that grieved losing her child, I am thankful for him and thankful to be able to celebrate this birthday with him tonight when we go to visit him and take him out for dinner.

Today is a day full of many mixed emotions for me.

No, four years just didn't seem like they were long enough. But without those four years, where would he be now? I guess from God's perspective, those four years were exactly enough. He has a purpose and a story that will all work together to make him the man God is molding him to be. We didn't go looking for him. God, for some reason, brought him to us and asked us to love him through the last four years, one fifth of his now twenty years of life.

Wishing a day full of blessings to my now 20 year old son. God took 20 year old North American me to live and study in South American to prepare me for my purpose in this world. Now he brought 20 year old South American Juan to live and study in North America to prepare him for his purpose.

I am honored that God chose me to be part of that preparation in your life, though I will always feel like it just wasn't long enough.

Missing him today. Looking forward to tonight. Glad he's not too far away.