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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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nine days

My friend flew to Guatemala today to spend time with her family and friends in her home country. She goes almost every year, and I've often wished for the chance to go with her sometime. I may not have gone with her this year, but I am still in denial that I'll actually be following her in just nine days. Wow. Nine days from now, I'll be in Guatemala, meeting with my team, getting ready for a full week of ministry. And who knows? I might even get to see my friend! Whether I see her or not, I still think it's pretty neat that we'll be there "together". 

I'm pretty pumped about the Guatemala side of our trip. 

Then we head to Spain, and to be completely honest, that part has me a bit anxious and nervous, quite terrified at times. If I went into it, I could fill the rest of this page with a long list of things that are gripping me wth fear over this trip. Traveling so far and for so long without Mike and David is probably my biggest fear. Leaving while my dad is still recovering from his brain injury and then a blood clot has me very anxious. Not knowing what to expect financially for our excursions within the country, especially in the first month of having to start paying for Juan's college education, makes me nervous, even though I know we have all we need. Knowing I will have to speak in Spanish and struggle through a particular verb tense and accent only found in Spain wears me out just thinking about it. Then add all my mixed emotion about seeing Laura again myself, and you could say I'm a bit freaked out. 

This is what I prayed for when we started searching for Laura two years ago. Now here we are, just a few days from leaving, and I am overwhelmed that it's actually happening. I am deeply saddened that Julian cannot join us, but I am satisfied with the agreement the airline finally made with me so I didn't just lose the funds entirely. At least it's one less issue to cause me anxiety. Someday, I sure hope to see all three of them reunite, but this just isn't supposed to be that time. Like Julian himself told me, you can't force something to happen if it isn't God's will.

I've got to remember God's plans are not my plans, His ways are not my ways, but He always has a plan that is bringing him glory. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Even quieter now!

All my people are back home, safe and sound. They got to the church a little bit before 8:00 this morning, a bit earlier than expected. And guess what? It's even quieter today than it has been.

They're all three sound asleep.

We stayed at the church until almost everybody was gone, and then we hopped in the car and headed to Chick Fil-A for breakfast, per David's request/"demand" in the middle of the night. He loved camp, but apparently my picky child wasnt too impressed with the food there. :)

It actually made for a nice chance to sit and talk/debrief about their experiences at camp before coming home to unpack a little and fall into bed.

Juan really enjoyed the extra activities and focus for the senior class. They went on a "Senior hike" and got to spend some extra time with their youth leader. The whole compassion focus this year was on raising money for the home kits in Guatemala, and I'm sure it made him proud to know he's one of the few students there (about 7 out of 950) that will be the first group to begin installing those home kits in just two short weeks. (If I heard correctly, I believe they raised around $13,000 for Guatemala between offerings and t-shirt sales. I sure do love seeing how the church is working together toward this one common goal.) And to think, he went on his first trip to Journey only three years ago, still a newcomer to the United States, still not sure about this whole English language. In fact, he refused to speak English his entire first year, yet once he came home from camp, he hasn't stopped speaking it since.

David really had a lot of fun, but he didn't open up too much about it yet. I'm sure he'll tell me bits and pieces over the next two weeks that we have together before we head separate ways again. He came back with a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises from the slide, though. He was the best at communicating with me on the bus ride and throughout the night, so I'm thankful for him letting me know they were ahead of schedule so I got up in time this morning. I know I can count on him to tell me how the trip impacted him spiritually, probably when we go on an evening walk or for a short drive somewhere. We've always been able to have some really great talks about deep things on random occasions. He's more introverted like that, like me. 😊

Mike absolutely loved the experience and told me several times during the week how much it blessed him. He got to the know the other leaders much better, he got to grow closer to several of the students he didn't know before, and he had the chance to see the need for spiritual leaders and mentors like himself in some of the students' lives. He said it was very spiritually renewing and challenging to him, as well. I enjoyed hearing the boys talk so proudly of their dad, saying that the other kids and leaders mentioned what a fun (and funny) guy he is.

They all came home with a completely different experience, yet something now has bonded them in a new way, knowing those experiences all overlapped and they got to see a bigger picture through three sets of eyes  rather than just one. I am glad they're all back home again, but I am so thankful and blessed that they had such an amazing opportunity to go together. Both boys had to skip camp last year because they chose the mission trip instead. This year we knew we had to make it a priority to get them to camp, especially knowing it would be their only year to go together. Then at the last minute, God very unexpectedly opened the door for Mike to join them. :) What a blessing, indeed.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Silence is bliss (but only for so long)

My boys are  now making their way back from Colorado amidst a caravan of fifteen buses carrying 950 high school students. (That's a lot of buses!)

This was the first I've ever had an experience like this, with all three of them gone while I stayed by myself for the whole week. It's been  quite interesting. I haven't had a chance to take a break and breathe since school got out, so rather than make this a week of productivity, I did just the opposite.

I embraced a week of solitude and silence. No TV.  No music. Very few phonecalls. Very few outtings. Just me, the dogs, and the cat, and God. Time to breathe, to relax, to pray, to listen, and to read.

The first day was absolutely blissful. I didn't realize just how much I needed a day to myself, away from all the distraction and noise of the world. I pulled out the workbook for our new women's Bible study starting this week, very fittingly called Breathe, by Priscilla Shirer. Since I'll be gone for most of the study in July, I figured I'd get a head start. No better time to dig into a study called Breathe when I've got a whole week to do just that--breathe.

Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath: 5-Session Bible Study

I opened it up around mid-morning, and it drew me in immediately. It's a study on the Sabbath, showing us how God created rest and modeled it to us. God gave us the Sabbath as a gift, a boundary to keep everything else in life running as it should. It's a celebration, a day set apart to remember and celebrate God's goodness in our lives. When we ignore it, not only do we end up running on fumes, become less productive, and not fully enjoy ourselves, but we miss both the gift of rest and the Giver.

I took a break in the late afternoon to meet a friend for coffee, came back home, made a light dinner, and got the workbook back out. By 10:00 that night, I'd finished the entire four weeks of study. It was like my own little spiritual retreat, and I didn't even have to go anywhere. I felt blessed and knew God gave me exactly what I needed after an overwhelming school year.

The next day, I decided to take advantage of the quiet to curl up with a book and read. Juan and I had just gone to the library to check out some informational books on both Guatemala and Spain so we could start reading up on where we'll be going. We found several good sources on Spain, but we found very little on Guatemala. I did find a fictional novel that took place in Guatemala, so I checked it out and hoped the author had done enough research to make her setting realistic and true to the Guatemalan culture. I will have to say, she did a wonderful job. I feel a bit more prepared to visit after reading the whole book. Yes, I finished a 320 page book in just three days!

Wednesday I got out a bit and enjoyed some company. I met my dear friend, Aubree, from church at a little coffee shop in Wylie, and we sat and talked for over three hours that morning. I got home in time for a late lunch, and then I tried to stay in contact with my mom the rest of the afternoon after I heard that my dad was back in the hospital with another big scare. I felt pretty anxious all day, not knowing what news I might get as the doctors tried to decide the best course of action to help my dad. Early that evening, they performed another procedure on him, and then we just waited while they kept a close watch on him. Thankfully, the Breathe Bible study group started that evening, so I got to spend a few hours in the company of good friends rather than wait anxiously by the phone all alone at home in a quiet house. By 10:00 that night, my mom finally made it home to give us an update on my dad. The doctors seemed hopeful that the procedure would work and that he would recover.

Thursday morning I woke up still feeling quite anxious, so I spent a lot of time both in prayer and also reading, attempting to learn more and more about Spain, the culture that our sweet Laura has embraced as her own. I have been learning a lot as I realized that Spain is one country I never really studied, despite even hosting a foreign exchange student from Spain one summer during my high school years. I am fascinated with the culture, the position, and the history of the country. I'm still quite nervous about the whole trip (probably because it's coming up so fast!!!!), but I am very intrigued by what I'm learning and will get to experience in just a few weeks.

By Thursday afternoon, my dad got to go back home, and I watched God answer another prayer by giving me a little headway into Julian's ticket situation, even if it's just a slight glimmer of hope that I'm not sitting at a dead end. I will call again on Monday to keep pressing on. (Please keep praying that God will make a way for Julian to still get there if it's meant to be.)  I also used a lot of that nervous, anxious energy to clean a few hugely neglected areas of my house.

By Thursday night, the quiet finally started to get to me, and I texted Mike to tell him it was starting to get pretty lonely. As soon as I texted him, my friend, Amy, sent me a message inviting me to hang out with her family on Friday morning to get some yummy peach ice cream at a peach orchard nearby. Perfect timing!

So today I hung out with them, cleaned some more, organized and cleaned out some junk areas in the house, and made some fresh banana bread for my boys to come home to. The last two nights I've been craving sweets. Tonight I suddenly remembered a key fact I learned in adoption training--that sweets and sugar are often seen as a substitute for love. The longer the boys have been gone, the more I craved sweet things. No wonder.

I desperately needed a few days to myself to recharge after a challenging and overwhelming year, but I'm so ready for them to be home again now. (They all had a really great time, though. 😀 Especially Mike!)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Emotion overload

I think I've felt more heightened emotion in the last three months than I've felt in a very long time, but the range of those emotions really feels like I'm on overload right now! There are moments that feel like my heart is going to explode, and tears seem ready to spill at any random moment when I have a chance to breathe.

So what's going on, you ask? Where do I even start?

Let's see. We can start with March, when I bought tickets for Juan and I to fly to Madrid, Spain. I can hardly wait to reunite Juan with his sister whom he loves so very dearly. I know this is part of their story that God has just allowed me to be a part of. Yet another part of me knows that seeing her again myself is bound to bring back so many mixed emotions of grief and sadness over losing her that are still buried deep inside. To say that I'm not concerned, scared, or worried about how I will feel would not be the truth. The closer we get (now only four weeks from today), the more I can feel the tension build in my heart.
(This picture was the last time I saw her before starting the adoption process.
 It's been almost 9 years.)

Then came April, when I truly believed all the details had come together for Julian to join us in Spain so all three siblings could reunite. Everything seemed to fall right into place until I made such an ignorant, costly mistake that I could't fix, no matter how hard I tried. Now we sit tearfully with a cancelled ticket, five broken hearts, a lot of time and money gone, insurance denials of coverage, and no financial way to get him a ticket through South America instead. I know God can still make a way, but as close as we are to leaving now, I don't see anything happening. The discouragment and disappointment still leaves me in tears every time I think about how royally I screwed things up. I should be over the moon excited about this trip, but instead I have a hard time embracing joy when I know that I'm the reason he can't join us.

After that, we jumped into May, and we got word on my 40th birthday that Julian could not get a transit visa. My heart broke, and it hasn't fixed itself yet. I still believe God will redeem this situation in some way, but having to look Julian in the eyes and continue telling him it's not working out is killing me. He's been so encouraging to me, telling me over and over that it's not my fault, that for some reason God is not allowing him to go. I know that in my head, but my heart hurts so deeply for him. Let's just say May was hard to get through.

Eventually we hurried right into June, and despite all the hoops he had to jump through, Juan David walked across the stage and received his high school diploma. I'm a proud mom, and I'm anxious now about what the future holds. The following day, we cleaned house like crazy and put his pictures and his artwork up all over to celebrate him the next day. I don't know that he's ever been celebrated that way before, since we've never even celebrated his birthday without celebrating David's at the same time. Made me wonder how the whole concept made him feel.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to the smell of Mike starting the grill, ready to smoke brisket all morning for the celebration. I fell back asleep, only to be awakened about two hours later to that phonecall no one ever wants to receive. My mom called to tell me my dad was admitted to the ICU with a brain injury, and it didn't look good. I prayed with my mom over the phone, then I got up and dressed to walk around the neighborhood and continue praying. Shortly after that, I got word that my brother and his wife were going to make their way to St. Louis as soon as they finished doing laundry and packing. I could go with them if I wanted to, but I had to make a decision fast.

My heart was torn. Should I leave my son's celebration? I didn't want to miss such an important event in my son's life, but if I didn't go, what if I never saw my dad again? I packed a bag just in case while I waited for an update from my mom. Rather than prepare for the party with excitement, I spent all of my time on social media letting friends and family know about my dad. By the time I got the update I needed from my mom that would have led me to go immediately with my brother, he and his wife had already left town. I missed my chance. I wanted to believe that I wasn't supposed to miss Juan's celebration, but my heart broke into pieces. Mike then told me that we'd drop everything and drive the ten hours to St. Louis as soon as the party got over. He'd drive me there, get some sleep, and turn around to head back so he didn't miss more than a day of work. My friend told me she'd watch out for the boys for us.

(His first ESL teacher from the newcomer school, his last ESL teacher from his high school.)

By the time the party was over around 5:00, we'd taken a friend's suggestion to book me a one way flight instead so I still had some time to pack and breathe before I had to leave. Due to weather, my flight changed about six times during the night, and I ended up flying in at 2:30 in the morning. I had to take an outrageously expensive Uber to get to my mom's house, which threw me into a tailspin emotionally. I was absolutely terrified and hysterical, spilling a ton of tears over the phone with Mike until I arrived safely at my mom's at 3:00 in the morning.

When I walked into the hospital the next morning to see my dad, he had lost almost all of his ability to speak or communicate. I could tell that he heard and understood everything I said, but he struggled to even form a word. My heart broke as I saw this man who speaks for a living suddenly find himself trapped in his own mind, unable to communicate with the world around him. He also could no longer use his right hand. His condition seemed to decline all day, and we watched him deal with uncontrollable "ticks" and twitches in his arm and his right eye. Thankfully they got him some medicine to calm his body down so he could finally rest, and by the end of the evening, we left with some hope after he very intently listened to one of the doctors and then was able to form and communicate a question for the doctor.

The next morning was my parents' 47th anniversary, and we were all quite nervous about what we might find when we arrived at the hospital. I can't even begin to tell you the relief we felt when we walked in to my dad and found him able to hold a conversation with us again. The swelling in his brain had gone down enough for him to regain his ability to speak and communicate, though it was obviously still a bit slurred and labored. My mom came in later with an anniversary card for him, and he was able to read it very clearly.

 (We even got to watch my niece's graduation in Pennsylvania via live broadcast!)

He continued to improve quickly, and he moved out of the ICU and into a regular room the next day. Due to several gaps in communication between the staff and some obvious neglect, he regressed a bit once in the regular room, but the next day they said he'd be transferring to an acute rehab facility the following day.

My brother had to get back to his kids and for work, so we all went to say goodbye to my dad that next morning, thankful that we knew he'd be leaving the hospital that day. He had a long road of recovery ahead, but we didn't lose him, so we chose to see the positive in everything that happened. It was hard leaving my mom alone, though, knowing her life had just changed as well. A week after he went into rehab, he got to go home, where he is now with my mom and his sweet little dog, LuLu, home in a new reality and a new normal.

Once I got home a week ago, it took me a day or so to reorient myself after leaving my son's party so abruptly. In fact, all the party decorations were still up and everything. Once I got all that put away, I jumped in the car with both boys to take Juan to his freshman orientation and registration at DBU. Two full days of parent informational meetings while the students had activities to help them get to know the other students. He officially registered for his classes, and we officially set up an account to start paying the bill! (That's where my anxiety level about hit the roof. We've been able to see the cost come down more and more as different types of aid, grants, loans, and scholarships have come through, but there's still a gap that we're trusting God to fill.)

( I was so excited when I found a DBU MOM shirt on clearance for only $4!)

We love DBU, and I know it's exactly where God wants my son to grow and mature into a young adult. I sure am overwhelmed, though, thinking about all the changes happening in life. He hasn't even been home for four years yet, and here I am sending him off to his home away from home. Because of his age and "lack of" maturity due to his circumstances, I know he needs this full-time college life experience in a smaller, controlled, Christian environment rather than staying at home in order to become who God wants him to be. I feel like keeping him home for another year to work and do community college might actually make him regress rather than continue moving forward. It is an investment I know we will never regret making. Plus, I know that David needs our undivided time and attention again as he continues through the rest of high school.

So here we are, still applying for more scholarships, taking care of doctor's appointments and dentist appointments, and getting ready for camp. Mike and the boys are headed to Colorado for Journey, our church high school camp. It's David's first time to go, Juan's last time to go. And Mike will be going as a leader for the very first time. I am so excited for all of them, though a little nervous for me. Two weeks after camp, Juan and I will leave for Guatemala for a trip that God planned for both of us long before we ever knew it. At the end of our week in Guatemala, we leave for Spain, while David heads to Los Angeles on another high school mission trip. He comes home after a week, with Juan and I heading home a few days later.

The following pics are examples they had set up at the church of what we'll be doing in Guatemala. All the camp and VBS offerings at our church this year are going toward purchasing the home kits that we'll be installing in Guatemala, giving the families in the community light (electricity), life (a stove that gives them a better quality of life in their home), and health (a water filtration system). We will also be teaching a VBS in that community, as well. 

About two weeks later, Juan moves into college to begin the next chapter of his life.

Can you see why I'm on overload?

It feels a little like I bit off more than I can chew, or my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I filled my plate for the summer. What was I thinking? Then I remember, none of this was on our radar a year ago. We may make plans, but God is the one who orders our steps.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

From an adoptive mother's heart

Four years. At times they've felt long, but today they feel so short.

These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I sat through my son's high school graduation last night.

Four years ago, that child still lived in an orphanage and had given up hoping for a family. Though only days remained until our long-awaited "Gotcha Day", he had no idea we were coming for him.

Four years ago, that boy didn't speak a bit of English and had no idea he was about to be thrown into an all English world. 

Four years ago, he'd lost all contact with his siblings with no idea if he'd ever see them or hear from them again.

Four years ago, that boy's life was just about to change in ways he never dreamed.

Today, four years later, I look at all he's overcome in such a short amount of time. The first year felt long and hard. He didn't want to even try to speak English. He didn't know how to merge into a family, nor did he want to suddenly depend on a parent to meet needs he'd already learned to meet on his own. He dealt with extreme culture shock and missed the friends who'd become his family after growing up in an orphanage together. He hated our rules, feeling so constricted and trapped in a home when all he wanted was to hang out with friends 24-7. Knowing we'd only ever parented a child, he felt so misunderstood as a teenager. He masked all that fear and insecurity with a wall of arrogance that I wondered if we'd ever break through. That was a long year.

Once we made it through that first year, the last three years have seemed so short in comparison. He played soccer for a recreational team and his high school team. He dove into all the fun church activities, forming a great relationship with the youth leaders. He served on a mission trip and is about to head out on another one soon. He worked hard in all of his classes in high school (despite not ever bringing homework home) and pleased all of his teachers with his attitude and eagerness to learn and participate in class. He passed all of his state exams, even the writing one! He took several extra classes online in order to make up for the credits he lost the first year by attending a newcomer school. Despite making his schedule even more complicated, he followed his passion for art and took an AP (College credit) art class his senior year. He thrives on relationships, so his lowest grades in high school were the online courses where he didn't have a chance to build a relationship with the teacher or participate in class discussions. 

He's still got a long way to go to overcome all the holes in his past. He's still not at the same emotional maturity level as his peers, though the gap seems to be getting smaller. There will still be many battles he'll have to face that will differ from other students his age. We still have days or moments when it's obvious we've only had four years together and our attachment level isn't anywhere near what it should be for a 19 year old "child". There's still so much that we didn't have time to teach him correctly. But I can't discount the first 15 1/2 years of his life and how they shaped him. God allowed him to live those 15 years without us because they are part of the story God is writing with his life. When I look at David (at exactly the age now that Juan David was when he joined our family), I know he's already his own person and can't imagine him going through the sudden and extreme changes his brother did at this stage in his life. 

I couldn't be more proud of that boy last night as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, knowing all he faced and has overcome in just four short years. And I loved sharing that moment in pictures with his siblings who cheered him on from afar from two different continents. I cannot wait to reunite him with his sister very soon, and I can only hope and pray that God will miraculously get Julian there,too, despite the current mishap over his ticket (which by the way, cannot be refunded, despite our efforts to fix the situation).

I also can hardly wait to see him embrace  life as a college student at DBU this fall. We still haven't gotten all the financial aspects worked out, but we know without a doubt it's where he's supposed to be for at least his freshman year. It was a matter of stepping into the waters and trusting for God to make a way.

 I am so very thankful for these two key people/relationships in his life. His youth pastor and his ESL teacher, both of whom have poured into him in such an encouraging way to get him to this day. Looking forward to traveling to Guatemala with Shane in just a little over a month. Even though he's no longer at our campus, he's still very present and active in his life. And the ESL teacher--let's just say God could not have given him a more supportive, encouraging, understanding, connecting, and all-out-amazing teacher who believes in the potential of every student that comes her way. 

 Dropping him off for line-up!

 Pre-ceremony pic taken by his ESL teacher of three of her ESL boys

 His whole row of fans--Ang, Matt, Will, Sam, David, Kyleigh, Shane (and Warren and Martha sat somwehere else). Mauricio was sad to have to cancel out at the last minute due to having to be at middle school camp a day early. 

 When they called his name--unfortunately, it gets blurry due to movement right as they go to hand him the diploma.

 Diploma in hand!

 Celebratory dinner afterwards with family

He did it!!!!! In four short years.
So proud of you, my son, and so humbled and honored that God chose me to be your mom for this stage of your life.

On to DBU for freshman orientation in 9 days.....

I could have very easily written this song for him 7 1/2 years ago when the adoption failed and I lost all contact with him. God surely has had His hand on him and has great things planned for my son.