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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.

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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.

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