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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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Embracing opportunities for rest

Contrary to popular belief, teaching is not a very restful career.

Teaching Pre-K is restful when I go home because I very rarely take any work home with me, but by the time all forty-four rambunctious little ones go home, my energy is pretty much spent, anyway. (Just ask my friend who subbed two days for me while I went to the NABE conference!)

But when I find a moment to rest, I am learning to embrace it.

Like today. David's counselor called two weeks ago to say she needed to set up a conference that each and every freshman needs to have with their counselor and a parent to go over their graduation plan. The latest she'd schedule a conference was at 2:00 p.m. Since my school doesn't get out till 3:10, I had to take a 1/2 day personal day and get a sub. That gave me a 3 hour lunch before the conference, and then another two hour break before I need to go to David's soccer game.

Nice. I got to sit out on my porch with a book and a cup of coffee after I made my lunch and caught up on some laundry. Now I get to spend a little time to blog while sipping on a yummy smoothie. And I got to spend a half hour with my son, talking about what he wants to do (or doesn't know what he wants to do) with his life. (Sigh.  The poor boy is clueless when it comes to finding his interests. Soccer and mission trips are the only things he can put a finger on at this point. Thankfully he's quite immersed in both.)

I've also learned to embrace a quiet start to my day. Not just my usual quiet time at 5:00ish while everyone else still sleeps. But now Mike takes David to school, I push Juan out the door as early as I can (which isn't always very early), and then I have between 20 to 30 minutes of absolute quiet before I have to leave. I might enjoy a second cup of coffee, catch up on some reading, talk to God, play with my cat, etc. I leave the house feeling calm, rested, recharged, and ready to face the day. Maybe once a week or so, I'll leave early so I can take David for doughnuts and catch a few minutes of one-on-one time with him.

Besides making some significant changes to my schedule to help me balance out my life a bit, I will also say that I'm thankful for two suggestions my doctor made for me that have made a world of difference in how I feel. Extra Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. Since November, I doubled the amount of Vitamin D3 I was taking every morning, and I take a small dose of magnesium every night. I finally sleep soundly and feel more rested in the mornings than I have in years. I even feel rested after waking up at 4 am because my body slept so soundly all night. Wow. I truly feel like a different person.

Rest. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual rest. It does the whole body good. I am so thankful I decided to start listening instead of just plowing through life at breakneck speed. I am able to tune in to the small moments and embrace them, whereas they may have passed by me unnoticed before or I may have shoved them aside because I didn't have time for them.

Well, the clock is telling me break time is over so I can make it to David's soccer game. So far, his team is undefeated. :) I'm so thankful for this beautiful weather to sit outside in today. :)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Value of Dual Language

I was in middle school when the yearning started. I loved learning words in a new language, getting glimpses into a different culture. I knew people from other countries, and I longed to communicate with them in their language and to travel to their homelands. I wanted to experience another world.

My first high school Spanish class captivated me. A student teacher made learning fun as she taught us all she learned while studying abroad in Spain. She inspired me to follow in her footsteps, to find a way to study the language by living in another country and culture.

I later moved to Indiana and had a similar inspiration with one of the greatest teachers ever, who also shared often of her experiences of studying abroad in Guatemala.

Several years later, I found myself flying home after spending a semester studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'd lived with an Argentine host family, faithfully attended a local church youth group, and took part in a Spanish as a Second Language course every morning. As the flight attendants came on the intercom to give information about our flight, first in Spanish and then in English, I realized that my whole world had changed in those three short months. I tuned in to the Spanish announcement over the English and understood every word.

Bilingualism opened up a whole new world to me.

I quickly embraced opportunities to teach English as a Second Language to both children and adults in our small community. I got to use my bilingualism in order to help them gain it, as well. In doing so, I found yet a third world open up to me. I grew up in the "American" world, embraced the "Latin American" world, and now I fell in love with the "Bilingual/Bicultural world", children growing up in a community of one culture and language while being raised at home by parents from another.

Sadly, school systems all over the country saw these children as a hindrance, as kids with lesser skills than their peers due to a limited English proficiency. Those systems in reality failed to see what an incredible advantage these students bring to the table, an opportunity to be the bridge, the link between two worlds. Anyone knows that the ability to speak more than one language makes you far more marketable in the workplace than a peer who can only speak one.

Speaking two or more languages means your brain is working at a greater capacity, carries double the vocabulary, and can make connections that other monolingual brains cannot.

I worked in the ESL system for about five years in Indiana before moving to Texas to work in Bilingual Education for the last fourteen years. ESL focuses solely on gaining English proficiency, while Bilingual Ed. gives children more of a foundation in their native language while still pushing the English as quickly as possible. Now we've finally gotten the right idea here in Texas that a Dual Language Education makes so much more sense. Both languages are equally important. Just imagine the society we could be producing by raising students who speak, read, and write both languages!

I am very grateful for the opportunity I had the last three days to attend the NABE (National Association for Bilingual Education) Conference here in Dallas, along with my Principal, a fellow-coworker, and many other Bilingual teachers from our district. I walked away feeling very inspired to continue in my profession  of teaching bilingual learners, raising them to be bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural human beings who can only enhance the society we live in.

Here are just a few key take-aways from the conference:

  • The whole concept of America being an English-only nation didn't even come about until the early 1900's. 
  • If we don't push students through all of the levels of rigor in their own language, they may never be able to transfer the knowledge and skill into the new language.
  • Brain research clearly supports the fact that biliterates have enhanced cognitive gains in multi-tasking, classifying information, reasoning skills, visual and spatial skills, recall skills, creativity and focus.
  • When you lose your first language, you lose your culture and your family connections. 
  • Dual language education is an opportunity to stimulate the brain, not remediate a student.
  • Your accent is nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you have two world-views or more. To speak with an accent is a gift.
  • A second language gives you power.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Family Roadmap blog

I started writing for a Community Moms blog a little over a year ago where I had a chance to publish my series on the Names of God in a somewhat condensed version. The blog has come a long way, and Lisa (the blog host) has an amazing passion to inspire and bring relief/help to other moms in various stages of life. 

She is a homeschool Mom, so many of the posts are directly geared for other moms in her shoes, but the blog encompasses so many other areas of parenting and Christian living. She's recently changed the name from Community Moms to The Family Roadmap. I encourage you to check it out. There's bound to be something there for you to apply to your current stage of life and parenting. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Verse 4, #SSMT17

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."
Psalm 126:3 NIV

This verse pretty much sums up my last few blog posts about some pretty big stuff God is doing in our lives. Leading Juan to DBU, a very direct answer to a prayer I started praying last summer. Bringing sweet "Viviana" back into our lives, a direct answer to a very personal prayer I prayed in the summer of 2015. Not only did we find her, get pictures of her, send a few e-mails back and forth, and then connect with her via social media, but the door quickly opened up to start making plans to see her--to finally turn that dream into a reality.

To see the place God whisked her off to on that bittersweet day back in 2011, to meet the mom who God prepared for her, and to experience a taste of the life God always planned for her. To actually "see" that she is right where she belongs.  

I will never forget that moment between me and God at a retreat in May of 2010. "Okay, God, I give them back. They are yours. Even if I never know another thing about them. I trust you. I trust you to fulfill your promise to not leave them as orphans. I trust you that you love them more than I do. I trust you that you'll join them with the right family in your time."

"Trust me, child. Your purpose in their lives has not yet been fulfilled. Keep holding on."

God gave Juan David back three years later.

Now almost four more years after that, I get to continue playing a role in her life, to give her brother back to her. To see how much she still loves and adores him absolutely melts my heart. I am so glad I never gave up hoping and praying that God would give her back to Juan David--because for all I know, she was likely praying that God would give him back to her. 

I'd planned on taking Juan David back to Colombia for a visit this year to celebrate his graduation, but as soon as we found his sister, we both instantly agreed that if their relationship progressed enough, we wanted to go to Spain to reunite with her instead. I can hardly believe that dream might actually come true. :) I've been keeping an eye on the flight prices, which have dropped several hundred dollars since I started looking, but we still need to wait on several more details to fall into place over the next month or two before we can actually purchase those tickets. My ultimate dream would be to get Julian there, too.

Yes, God has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  I cannot tell you what it means to me to have her back in our lives again. I love posting pictures on Instagram and seeing her like them. I love waking up to his phone in my room making sounds because she is sending him a message. I love watching them talk on Skype, sharing a little bit more about their lives with each other. I love seeing her pop up on the computer to say hi, giving me the chance to send cute little messages back and forth with her.

I just want to soak it all up and cherish every bit of it. A true miracle--all in God's perfect time. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

All in one day

Today I registered my son for freshman orientation at DBU in June. Doesn't get much more real than that.

Breathe it in.

This morning I sent pictures to Spain, pictures I had of Juan and his sister from when they came to the United States together in 2008. Pictures I saved for him, but that I also hoped I could give to her someday to fill in missing pieces of her life for both her and her adoptive mom.

Breathe in the fullness of that moment.

Today I got my official approval to be part of the mission team to Guatemala this summer with Juan David.

God's doing some huge things in our lives right now. I just want to breathe it all in, not missing the wonder of it all, not taking any of it for granted.

God is good.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lion Official Trailer 1 (2016) - Dev Patel Movie

This movie truly opened my eyes and gave me a visual for things I always knew about my son. What a powerful movie that will stick with me forever. Tears streamed down my cheeks throughout most of the movie as I watched this young man's story unfold, though all I saw was my son living and reliving his childhood through memories. I saw the stories he's shared with me, some very recently, just come to life on this screen.

My heart broke. He is a survivor. I came home with an overwhelming desire to hug him and tell him how much I love him and am proud of him.

This movie hits adoption right on the head, especially the adoption of older children. When you adopt an older child, you adopt them along with all their history that made them who they are. Memories (positive and negative) that they can never forget.

I know one thing for sure. As soon as I can find a way to get us on a plane to reunite him with his sister, I need to do it. Just watching the two of them skype together and seeing how strong their connection still is to one another, I can't wait any longer than is absolutely necessary. This movie solidified that for me. We waited so long to find her. Now the opportunity to go see her is right in front of us--I can't let it slip away.

She is a huge part of him, and he is just as much a part of her. Something we only dreamed of, now looking a little more like reality every day.

I stand in awe of the beautiful story God is still writing with their lives, and I am so grateful to be a part of that story.

I had no idea how this movie could hit so close to home. As soon as it is available for purchase, I will be buying a copy for our home.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Siesta Sister Scripture Memory Team, Verse 3, #SSMT17

I picked this verse for those nights when I wake up in the middle of the night, fretting about this or that, worrying about things I can't control. 

Rather than count sheep (or worries), I'm going to recite this verse over and over. 

God knows my needs. He knows what's ahead. 

He's in control, so I can sleep in peace. Whatever isn't right tonight can be dealt with better tomorrow after I've slept on it. :)

Friday, February 3, 2017

I trust you, Jesus.

Two summers ago, I struggled with a pretty crappy attitude. Just about everything seemed to go wrong all summer long, ending with a totaled RV that our insurance couldn't cover. Yeah. I was a mess.

After a long screaming match with God and a written list of grievances over events from that summer, I read an article that simply suggested I give that list over to God and verbally exclaim, "I trust you, Jesus." Every time something from that list would creep into my thoughts and start to make me bitter, I would take a deep breath and then repeat, "I trust you, Jesus."

I wote it out on a small dry-erase board and hung it on my wall as a reminder.

I also started a gratitude journal, at first listing three things a day that I was thankful for, then eventually filling a page a day. I'm on my third journal now. Both exercises changed my from the inside out. That summer ended up with huge blessings, including a bigger, newer RV covered fully by our insurance a full month after they told us they couldn't cover more than $500 of our damage.

Now here we are two and a half years later. I've been a bit (okay, very) overwhelmed with Juan's senior year and college admission process. As I explained in a previous post, high school has been anything but smooth for my son. He's faced complications at every stage on every level, yet he always remains positive and does the best he can. He's overcome so many obstacles and never loses faith. I, on the other hand, constantly consider all the "what-if'" scenarios. He doesn't take enough details into consideration, while I overthink too many details and stress myself out over nothing.

So, anyway, we filed his FAFSA back in October on the first day possible. And he applied for DBU around the same time, the very day we visited the campus. And he applied for a Christian Leadership Scholarship within the same month.

We waited. And waited. And waited. We had to go back in to DBU to fill out extra paperwork for financial aid, and something about it made me very uneasy. So uneasy that I lost sleep over it. I kept worrying that I filled it out wrong and that it would affect how much aid he got.  Finally he got notice about his acceptance, but we still didn't get any financial aid package. I hated to give him hope that he could go to DBU if we found out later we couldn't afford it, while I continued to fret that I'd messed something up with that paperwork. Yet I kept hearing God say, "Just trust Me."

We finally got that long-awaited financial aid package in the mail last week, but when I opened it up, my heart sank. He'd gotten the Christian Leadership Scholarship, plus two small grants. But the remaining amount was just too much. I couldn't see any way possible for him to go. His heart started sinking, too, and I heard that voice again, saying, "Just trust Me." So I looked at Juan and told him not to worry, we'd figure out a way to get him there. I attended a private Christian college, and we'd find a way for him to do the same. We'd just have to find more scholarships to apply for.

We talked to Mauricio (the boys' Student Pastor), who is a senior at DBU right now, and he told us to keep communication open with the financial aid department, and he also suggested several other specific scholarships that the school offers that could really help. We made an appointment right away with the financial aid counselor at DBU, saying we had a lot of questions about the financial aid package he got. We went in late Monday afternoon to talk with her, and sure enough,, I had good reason to feel uneasy about that paper I'd filled out. Juan's situation is quite unique, so they didn't really know how to instruct me to fill out the paper. When we explained everything to the lady, she told us not to worry--they'd get the paperwork fixed, and the amount of his financial aid would increase quite a bit. Basically, we went in with a specific amount that we needed to find in scholarships for him to be able to attend there, and we walked away with a likely possibility that his aid would increase to that very same amount. She also said she'd be able to help get him plugged in with the International Department to find him a part-time (bilingual) job on campus. Any scholarships he can get will only make it better.

Now I can finally say that I do believe we've found our son's future home for next year.

He registers for summer orientation later this month.

Yes, I trust you, Jesus.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Making time for small things and space for big things

Learning how to say NO so you can say YES to the things God has prepared for you takes a lot of wisdom. And patience. And self-control. And prayer. 

Sometimes God wants us to stop running around like a chicken with our head cut off so we don't miss the small blessings standing right in front of us. We get so busy chasing the next big thing to brighten our life that we miss the little sparks that could light our whole world.

I shared recently about being able to drop my "to-do" list for the day in order to connect with my son in ways we never have before. I also got to join in on his first skype call to his sister, one of the greatest gifts God has given to both of us as God filled his room with that precious voice we both have missed more than we knew. Small things, small moments that have warmed my heart and reenergized my faith in exponential ways.

Yet sometimes God wants us to clear some space in our lives to make room for the big stuff we don't even know is coming. I think He just dropped one of those big things right into our laps.

Let me back up a little bit here to explain. Right before Shane, our previous Student Ministries Pastor, left to serve as the High School Pastor at the main campus, he pulled Juan aside to tell him about an upcoming mission trip he's leading to Guatemala this summer. It will be the first time our church will take a group there, so they are purposely keeping the group small. But he specifically chose Juan to be a part of it. It was completely unexpected, but the more we thought about it, we realized this would be a great way to continue bonding with this Pastor, letting him continue to invest spiritually in our son. So we said as long as the dates worked out, we'd like for him to go. 

Shane has since left our campus, and Mauricio has taken over his position (another very key player in both boys' spiritual lives). But he finally sent an e-mail last Wednesday with the dates of the trip, the cost, the projects they'll be working on, and the informational meeting date. We went to the meeting (where we knew absolutely no one except for Shane) and listened intently.  They will be installing some home kits, leading some Backyard Bible clubs, and training the nationals on effective ways to lead their own 5 Day Backyard Bible clubs. The more he talked, the more my heart started to stir within me. If you know me at all, you know my heart beats for missions, specifically in Central and South America. I whispered to Mike, "I want to go, too!" 

At the end of the meeting, Shane also made the comment that they could really use another female leader if any of the parents wanted to come along.

We walked up to Shane to give him Juan's card saying he's interested in going, and immediately he looked right at me and said, "Do you want to go?" Of course I said I wanted to go, but I'd obviously have to pray about it first. He introduced me to the other male leader of the trip, and he told him, "If she decides to go, it's a win-win. She's got a big heart for the Hispanic people, and she's bilingual!"

So, here I am, praying about it. Mike thinks I should go. I want to go. Even Juan is okay with me going. We'd be the only Spanish speakers on the trip, so he said, "Mom, they need us."

It's a lot of money to raise in a short amount of time since it would be for two of us, but the more I think about it, it seems like a no-brainer. I can't think of a better way to spend my summer than serving on a cross-cultural mission trip with my adopted son. When he first came here, David wanted to participate on every mission trip opportunity he could, but Juan didn't have any interest. Now that he does, I want to encourage it as much as possible. Mission trips are truly life-changing. Not only do they teach you that we are here to serve others rather than live for ourselves, but it's also where relationships are built that can last a lifetime. Most of our dearest, closest friends are people we've gone on mission trips with. 

This seems like an an opportunity to do something extraordinary with Juan that I will never forgive myself for missing out on. I'll never get the summer between his senior year and college back. 

Would you pray with me that God would make this absolutely clear to me? Thank you!!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Time to recollect

Women's Bible studies started tonight . . . and I didn't go. I didn't even sign up. I will readily admit, though, that it was a hard decision for me. One that I had to make far ahead of time. 

I had to remember that whatever I say yes to means I am saying no to something else. Saying yes would have meant saying no to one evening each week that I can take a breath and just chill. One night a week that both the boys are gone, so I can spend time writing if I so desire. One quiet night in the middle of the week when I can declutter my desk, organize the many papers passing through, go through my endless checklists with due dates for this and that, and make sure no one misses any deadlines comng up. One night a week to take care of myself--which I find quite necessary during this particular month of school (Parent Conference Month). 

Up until four years ago, I braced for Parent Conference week twice a year. Now it's Parent Conference month, literally taking up two months of my year. Not only does the extra time and attention drain me, but it's always right in the middle of flu season. Once I schedule all 44 conferences throughout the month, then I stress way more than necessary every time a child coughs or sneezes on me for fear of getting sick and having to reschedule a bunch of them. And yes, that has actually happened--thus, why I tend to stress about it.

If Bible studies started in March instead of February, it would be a different story. But tonight as I'm sitting here nursing a slight headache and headcold, I'm glad I am sitting at home able to rest.