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, August 22, 2017

Congratulations are in order

In keeping with the long-haul theme, I believe there's someone who deserves a big congratulations for his commitment to vocational ministry for the long-haul. These congratulations are a little late, but they are for my dad, who officially retired at the end of July after 46 years as a Pastor.

My dad, Karl Kloppmann, graduated from Grace Seminary in 1971 and later got his Doctorate of Ministry in Pastoral Studies (by correspondence) from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2001.

He began his ministry as the pastor of Village Bible Church in Lansing, Illinois in 1971. Five years later, on July 4th, 1976, he moved to Ephrata, Pennsylvania (where I was born!) to assume his role as the new pastor of Grace Fellowship Church.

He stayed there for sixteen years until the end of 1992, when God led him to First Baptist Church of Warsaw, Indiana (where I married Mike!). At the end of the year 2000, he moved to St. Louis to pastor Brentwood Bible Church, where he served for the last 17 years.

He has written numerous articles for The Gospel Herald and Sunday School Times and also wrote a book titled A Men's Ministry for a Small Church.  In addition to leading a church and writing, he taught as an adjunct professor off and on for Brook's Bible College in St. Louis.

After suffering from a brain injury sustained in a car accident on June 2nd of this year (precisely in the middle of my son, Juan's graduation ceremony), he felt the need to officially retire from his reponsibilities as a pastor so God can bring about a new pastor to guide his church into a new facility in a new location. Brentwood Bible Church will soon move to a different part of St. Louis and will assume the name New Beginning's Bible Church.

My dad has gone through extensive therapy for the last two months to recover and heal from his accident and has made excellent progress, although it has definitely changed his life in more ways than he ever imagined. He continues with some therapy while he is now working through the details to eventually relocate again in order to be closer to family.

Last year, Mike and I made the boys choose between going to camp or a mission trip to LA. When they chose the mission trip, we took off during the week that David would have gone to camp to go on a family vacation to see as much family as possible in one trip. We purposely made it a point to spend a Sunday in St. Louis so Juan David could visit his grandpa's church and watch him preach for the first time. I'm so glad we made that part of our trip so Juan David didn't miss out on that opportunity to hear my dad preach.

Congratulations, Dad. Thanks for being an example of what it means to commit to the long-haul, even when it's not an easy road. You knew your purpose and your calling, and you stuck to it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

In it for the long haul

I'm a long-haul kind of person. We're a long-haul kind of family. We like to put down our roots and settle in.

Every year brings change, sometimes significant, sometimes subtle. We've been in the same little house for ten years now, but we add some kind of change to it every year (paint color, new flooring, landscaping, decorative touches, etc.)

This year will be my fifteenth year at my school, though I've taught three different grades and age groups. Teachers and administration come and go, but there are a few of us that have stuck around and put our roots down. The relationships and trust you can build with the families when you stick around is pretty amazing.

David has stuck with the same soccer team since about fourth or fifth grade, and he's grown up and made memories with several of the same kids from church since he was in early elementary school.

Mike has had two different jobs while here, and he maintains a close relationship with his coworkers of his first job.

When things get tough, we've learned to stick it out and not bail at the first sign of difficulty. We're long-haul kind of people. We are committed. And I hope we've taught David that commitment means contentment. Contentment with where God placed us and a belief that He placed us there for a reason.

When we jumped into the adoption process, we knew it would be for the long haul. We didn't know it meant a long haul of pain, heartache, and loss. When the adoption failed the first time, I remember so many caring people telling me they could help us find another avenue to adopt a child. But I'd already commited my heart to Juan David and Laura, and I believed with all of my heart that God led them to us for a purpose. I had to see the story through. Julian had already entered the picture, anyway, so I knew God had to be up to something. Even when it looked like we'd lost everything, we stayed grounded and followed the dark path ahead.

This week as we got Juan David moved in to DBU and walked away, leaving him there to start this next chapter of his life, I couldn't help but feel nothing but a deep gratitude for that long-haul commitment. Surprisingly, I didn't shed a single tear as I hugged him and walked away. I felt such joy in watching how God continues to play out his story. Especially when I started to walk away and happened to overhear his very next conversation with one of the upperclassmen helping out that day, a fellow Colombian.

Only God.

In his dorm room
 A pic with one of his roommates (the other one hadn't arrived yet)

 The bed he chose and quickly made up
 Getting ready to leave
 Out in the foyer area of his dorm
 Outside his dorm

 His new Colombian connection

What if we'd thrown up our hands in surrender and said, "No. It's too much." 

What if I'd never pursued that relationship with Julian?

What if I'd stopped praying for Laura and forced myself to move on and forget about her?

What if we never tried again to adopt Juan David, too scared and still angry from the first attempt?

 Two texts I've gotten from him late at night this week. :)

Without a long-haul commitment, these pictures would not exist today.

Will he make it in college? Only God knows. We're just going to take it a semester at a time. But he's there, and I'm grateful because I know God led him there. 

Classes start Monday. Keep him in your prayers!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One final day

God gave us four years with him. We fought for him for five years and then had him for four.

Four long years learning how to connect with someone you didn't raise.

Four short years in modeling correct thinking and behaving as much as possible, hoping he picked it up.

Four short years in keeping him active, involved, and moving forward academically, socially, and spiritually.

Four short years catching him up, bringing him up to speed, filling in gaps and holes from a childhood you missed out on.

Four long years wondering, searching for his sister to fill in a gaping hole in his heart.

Four long years trying to figure him out and find ways to get him to open up and to bond with you.

And just like that, we're on our final day at home together before he moves into college to start this next chapter of his life.

He's nervous and excited. I'm thrilled and anxious.

For me, this last year has been very frustrating to watch him face his senior year so arrogantly, knowing just how naively he looked at the future ahead of him. Yet at the same time, it's been the year that I've bonded with him the most deeply. I have to continually remind myself that his arrogance is just a mask to cover the fear and insecurity inside. Just like the first year he came. He just doesn't know how much he doesn't know. Rather than asking for help or direction, he'll instead act like he knows everything and can do no wrong. But then you'll catch him in a moment of weakness, and he'll admit that he's incredibly nervous.

That's where we are now. The walls are right back up, and the arrogant attitude of, "Leave me alone. I've got this under control." is back. Ugh.

Two roommates await him tomorrow and he hasn't even met them other than through a group text they've had going on for about two weeks. He's nervous about his English, about sharing a room again, about not being able to keep up with the workload (though he'll never in a million years admit that), and he's a little freaked out about all the unknowns in this stage of life.

I'm nervous about how my role will forever change with this move. Nineteen or not, he's still been living 100% under our roof and our rules. He still keeps his phone in our bedroom at night. He still attends church on a regular basis, which he happens to enjoy, so I'm thankful for that. He still can only spend money when he has permission or drive places with permission. He still has to check in with me or his dad constantly. He still spends a lot of time with me, especially this summer after spending three weeks traveling together and after watching his school friends and groups pretty much dissipate as everyone went in separate directions after graduation.

Now he's taking that first step toward independence, whether he's ready or not. That part is exciting for us because we know he'll never start to apply what we've taught and modeled for him without the opportunity to live away from us. We are also excited for him to begin to build those lifelong friendships within the four walls of his dorm. We're thrilled for him to get to be in community again, the extrovert that he is, especially after forcing him to live among three rather introverted people for the last four years. We're thankful for all the opportunities he's going to have in front of him.

We're nervous that the English will be too much, that he doesn't have good enough study habits to keep up, or that he won't be able to handle the freedom. We're anxious that his maturity level won't even come close to matching that of his new peers due to the gaps still very present in his life due to his upbringing. We're a bit concerned about finances, getting him through this year's tuition and room and board, as well as finding a balance to still allow him some freedom (and us freedom) to continue living and having fun.

Ready or not, tomorrow morning our lives will change, and I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that he will be spending this first year at DBU (Dallas Baptist University). Close to home, yet still away from home. If he needs something, we're less than an hour away. But if he doesn't, we can have that separation that we all desperately need at this stage in life.

Back to the three of us at home, and David has not held back in letting us know how much he is looking forward to having us all to himself again. He's been such a good sport through this whole adoption, despite the fact that we adopted out of birth order and made him the youngest rather than the oldest. This next year will be so good for him.

So today, besides going over the checklist several times, we're headed out for a last-minute coffee date with one of his ESL teachers (the one whose recommendation letters got him three scholarships!) and then out for dinner as a family at the restaurant of his choice. Perhaps a quick trip to the store to stock him up with a few snacks, as well.

Here goes!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Lots of reflection going on here. So much that I find myself speechless in a sense.

Sometimes God shows up so big that you're afraid to even attempt to put it into words for fear of "cheapening" the whole experience because no words will do it justice.

I still have a hard time even fathoming the fact that I am on the other side of this story, that our sweet and precious Laura is back in our lives, that we no longer have to wonder about her life. We're part of it. It's such an incredible miracle that I struggle to even talk about.

My photo books came in the mail today from our Guatemala trip and our trip to Spain. Oh, the story that they tell.

I got out the first three photo books of our journey and sat in awe of the story that we've lived out. The pain and agony of that first adoption process/failure cannot be denied. Even today as I reread that old blog, I fight the tears. But I clung to a simple phrase: Joy cometh! And this summer, it truly came.

Today's mail!

Our full adoption journey

 Our first trip to Colombia--A failed attempt to adopt Juan David and Laura that led us straight to Julian, 2011
 Our second trip to Colombia--Back to Julian, a Reunion with Juan David, 2012
 Our third trip to Colombia, to bring Juan David home, 2013
 Our trip to Spain, to reunite with Laura, 2017

It's been quite the unexpected journey over the last decade, starting with a miscarriage in the spring of 2007, leading us to an adoption conference that fall and the hopes of adopting a little girl from El Salvador.

Now here we are, ten years later, with a completely different story. 

And as I look at these pictures, in all the books, I am speechless. And more than grateful. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A few pics of Juan in action

I finally got a few more pics of Juan from our trip to Guatemala. He sure was an incredible asset to our team as a whole and to his team that he worked with on a daily basis. Exactly where he needed to be.

While there, Juan happened to mention in conversation that he's been on both sides of the equation. This time as the servant, but at a previous time in his life, as one of the children being served. So later in the week, while making the video for next year's Journey (High School camp) video, they did a personal interview first with me and then with Juan about our story. :) Don't know if he or I will ever see the video, but I know David will when he goes to camp next year. :)

Taking Jesus to LA

Well, I can't blog about my trips with Juan to Guatemala and to Spain without telling you a little bit about David's mission trip to LA. Unfortunately, I wasn't there to take pictures, and well, you know teenage boys. They're not too concerned about taking pictures, either.

Here are a few pics that David gave me, and one pic that I stole from Instagram.

I know that they served with Radius Church, they went out in the community to invite people, and they did a lot of painting for the church, among other things. They also had a fun day at Six Flags, so David got to use his Season Pass perks and his dining pass. :)

 Two years in a row now that they've gone to California together. 💗

And last, but not least ...

This ...
is what it's all about.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A week of solitude

And today, I'm thankful for a week of solitude. Traveling for 18 days with people constantly around, living under someone else's schedule, about did this introvert in. Ha.

I came home to so many people wanting to talk, hear my stories, go out for coffee, etc. Yet all I wanted to do was hang out by myself for awhile, take time to process, to decompress, and to write it all out.

If we go out for coffee or talk on the phone, you know good and well you will never get the depth of my heart about what really happened on this trip. Now that I've written what seems like a ton of blog posts, shared my pictures and my heart, I think I can venture back out into the world of socialization again. Just in time for school to start! AAAAAAAHHHHHHH. (That came back way too fast!!!)

I've also learned to thank God for the little things now that I've experienced life without them or met people who live without them daily. As one of our high schoolers said during one of our last meetings in Guatemala, "How can I go back home and not live differently?"

When I step out of bed in the morning onto a clean floor rather than a dirt floor, I'm thankful.

When I use my own clean restroom in my own home, stocked with toilet paper and with running water to flush when I'm done, I'm thankful.

When I stand in the shower and feel the warm water wash over me, I am thankful.

When I teach in a clean classroom stocked with a gazillion supplies, I am thankful.

When I live in a community that offers free public education, free bus transportation, and is mandatory so all children can at least get through high school, I am thankful.

When I sleep with a ceiling fan over my head at night, I am thankful.

When I come in from the heat outside to an airconditioned house, I am thankful (even if it does cost me a fortune in the summer months!).

When I open the door to let my dogs out into the yard, I am thankful they have a yard.

When I cook on a stove without having to build a fire on the floor in my kitchen, I am thankful.

When I get a call from my husband in the middle of the day, I am thankful.

When I communicate with my husband via texts at any hour of the day whenever I want, I am thankful.

When I open my pantry, my refrigerator, and my freezer and find them fully stocked, I am thankful.

When I sit out on my front porch to start my day with peace and solitude (and prayer), I am thankful.

When my son and I talk about memories we made, I am thankful for the new connection between us.

When I look at current pictures of my son and his sister, I am thankful.

When I hug David's neck or run my fingers through his hair in the mornings, I am thankful.

When I sleep beside my husband in the same bed at night, I am thankful.

When I hang out at Six Flags for the day with just my two boys, I am thankful.

When we all eat dinner together as a family, I am thankful.

When my heart feels full, I am thankful.

When my son hangs out with his new Christian friends from our Guatemala trip, I am thankful.

When I can use my right hand, I am thankful.

When I see my dad progressing in his healing and recovery, I am thankful.

When I continue to get pictures from my sweet friend in Guatemala, I am thankful.

When I continue to get pictures from Spain of Laura and her mom, I am thankful.

I could go on and on. After all I experienced (and missed) on these two trips, how can I be anything but thankful?

Friday, August 4, 2017

What could've been

It was hard not to see my son and his sister together and not wonder what could've been.

It was hard to feel her hugs and not wonder what could've been.

It was hard to see pictures of the three of us together and not wonder what could've been.

But I'm so thankful to see what is and not have to wonder what could've been.

The adoption could have been successful, and she would have missed her beautiful life with a mom, an aunt, and grandparents and cousins to love and be loved on as an only child. She would have missed that undivided love and attention that she so deserved and needed that I never could have given her between three children.

The adoption could have been successful, and David may have struggled immensely as being the odd one out, the sibling that didn't grow up with the other two, that didn't share the same connection or memories.

The adoption could have failed, and I may never have connected with Julian, thus meaning I never would have known anything more about those kids.

The adoption could have failed, and I may not have ever known that Juan David would still need a family two and a half years later.

The adoption could have failed, and I might not have ever seen Colombia or known why God ever put Colombia on our hearts.

The adoption could have failed, and we may never have attempted adoption again.

The adoption could have failed, and I could have been left with a gaping hole in my heart, never knowing why.

Juan's adoption could have been successful, and we may have never known a thing about his sister again.

Juan's adoption could have been successful, and then we could have been left to wonder about his sister for the rest of his life, leaving a hole in his heart that could never be filled.

Our trip to Spain could have happened, but her mom could been guarded, keeping us at an arm's distance, not fully letting us in.

Our trip to Spain could have been successful, but we could have spent a ton of money, visited unfamiliar places, and left disconnected from the little girl we went to see.

Our trip to Spain could have been successful, but we could have hugged, said goodbye, and thanked God for closure, rather than an open door.

So rather than regret not seeing what could've been, I'm so grateful for what really is rather than all the scenarios of what could've been.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nothing but joy

Amidst all the beauty and fulfillment of this trip (these trips), it had its fair share of challenges each and every day.

The fear I felt leading up to the trip was nearly paralyzing. So. many. unknowns. 

The hurt and disappointment that Julian did not join us followed me every single day, even onto the flight home. I know God must have had a purpose in not allowing that to work out, but I hurt for him to not be able to experience that reunion and find himself embraced into his sister's family as we were.

I dealt with extreme homesickness, missing Mike and David so very much. Combining these two trips together made for an unbearably long time away from both of them. I hated not having them both with me. We barely communicated during the Guatemala part due to our long hours away from the hotel, away from any wifi to be able to contact one another. We shared one phonecall during our last morning in Guatemala, only because I set my alarm for 1:45 in the morning to call them (2:45 a.m. Dallas time, shortly before they headed to the airport for David's departure to LA). Then in Spain, our communication was hit and miss due to the seven hour time difference. I had to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning to be able to talk to Mike after he got home from work. We ended up sharing one phonecall again on our last morning there at 3 am, only because I asked him to call me on Tuesday night at 8:00 in order to wake me up at 3 am for our 4 am departure to the bus station. Talk about complicated. I told Mike I need more than one date a week with him now just to be able to catch up on all the time we missed. 

Guatemala's main challenge was not having any access to a bathroom all day. Thankfully, miraculously, I never once found myself in need of one. But if you know my digestive issues with a gall-bladderless body, you can understand this challenge. I actually ended up bonding with another leader on the trip when we discovered that we both had the same issue! Lol. The other challenge I faced there was sleep. You'd think that I could have slept well in a nice hotel bed all to myself, but no, not when I shared the room with three high school girls. Even as quiet of a group as they gave me, I still struggled to relax enough to sleep more than a few hours each night. 

Spain's main challenge was the heat. Extreme heat and no airconditioning or fans.  They had warned us ahead of time of the heat, but we never expected the lack of airconditioning. Once again, I didn't sleep well for the first few days. I'd toss and turn, and then I'd wake up after an hour or so, just drenched in sweat. Leaving the window open and the bedroom doors open didn't help much, either. We went to bed around midnight every night and then didn't get up until after 10 in the morning, but I think we got up so late because we were just so exhausted from tossing and turning all night. (Plus I don't think my body ever really adjusted to the time difference--because as soon as I got home, I fell right back into my normal sleep patterns, 10:00 at night till 5 in the morning.) The last three to four days of our trip, the temperatures started dropping a little bit more each day, and we finally stopped sweating enough to enjoy each moment more fully. The very last day turned quite windy and we actually started to feel a bit chilly! I thought for sure I'd sleep well that last night.

We went to an amusement park on Monday, where we swam first and then enjoyed the rides after that. On Tuesday we went out in the late morning to meet more of her mom's friends (also teachers!), try more seafood, do a little souvenir shopping (with what little money we had available after realizing the ATM blocked my card), and then her aunt came over for our last lunch together. We then spent the early evening packing. We realized we hadn't tried Spain's famous churros yet, so we planned to eat a semi-early dinner before heading back out to have churros and hot chocolate on our last night together. After a long trek to find the famous churro place, we realized that we'd missed our chance because they'd just closed 30 minutes before we got there. We ended up going somewhere else for dessert and drinks. (FYI--ordering a small cafe con leche at 10:30 at night might interfere with any attempt to sleep for a few hours.) Laura and I had a blast on that last outting just taking a ton of selfies together, smiling, making funny faces, and enjoying being together. 

We walked back home, set our alarms for 3 am, and then headed to bed right around midnight. Three hours to sleep with the beautiful breeze coming through the windows. But sleep did not come. 

First I worked on the finishing touches on a letter I wanted to leave her mom, thanking her for all she did for us and for opening up her home, her life, and her heart to us. To tell her how much this meant to Juan David to be able to spend such quality time with his sister and to have her back in his life. And to tell her what the trip meant to me, to see how God had answered all my prayers for her daughter over all these years. 

Then I worked on a letter to Laura, telling her how happy it made me to see the beautiful life God had given her. I told her how much I would miss her hugs and kisses, and I told her I loved her and would look forward to her visiting us in Dallas someday. 

Then I laid back on her bed and just stared at the ceiling, thoughts and emotions just swirling through my head. I pray often over my sons' rooms, for God's light and love to fill them. In fact, I've prayed the same over her room, though I'd never seen it or been in it. I embraced the miracle of this opportunity and just prayed for God to fill every corner of her room and let His light and love overflow in her home. I felt pure and utter joy over those three hours on that sleepless night. 

At 3 am, my alarm went off and my phone rang. I joyfully talked to Mike, so ready to go home, so fulfilled by my time in Spain. 

Two summers ago, I sat out on my back porch, praying for Laura, as I did every morning. But something stirred deep within me that morning, and I prayed more boldly than ever that God would give her back to Juan David. I said, "God, I've prayed so faithfully for that little girl for seven years now, and I have to believe that one day you'll reward me for those prayers by giving her back in some way. Even if it's just a picture of her, please give us something."

Later that morning, while still sitting on my back porch, I found a facebook post on an adoption group with very specific instructions on how to ask for Juan David's full file from Colombia. I followed the instructions exactly as written, that same day. By following those instructions, one e-mail led to another, leading to the one that said, "Do you just want his file or do you want to find biological family?"

A full year later, I got an e-mail from Colombia with that long awaited picture.

A year after that, I left Spain, hugging and kissing that sweet girl, thanking her for letting me sleep in her room, telling her it's now filled to the brim with my love. I also left Spain with hundreds of pictures of her, some with her family, some with her brother, and some with just me. How could I feel anything but joy.

My heart is full. A new chapter begins.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

That burning question

As much as I tried to soak up every minute with Juan David and his sister together, I will very readily admit that many moments tugged heavily on my heart strings.

All the hugs. Kisses. Holding hands. That sweet girl is as affectionate as can be. Yet my son, the one I did adopt, is as far on the other extreme as possible. Why did I have to miss out on the affectionate one? Why did I get the stiff one who desperately needs affection but pushes it away? (Though he does hang all over me when he's in an unfamiliar situation, not realizing that he's doing it.)

Then there were other moments, like when we met her extended family and her grandpa asked me about the rest of my family back at home. I showed them pictures of David and Mike, and then he said, "But you never had a girl?"

Ouch. Like a punch in the gut. How do you explain that you carried one in your heart for a long time, that she already had her own place set up in your home, but that somehow she ended up as his granddaughter, a contintent away. She actually stood right there in front of him. Yes, I had a girl, but I lost her.

No, I didn't actually say any of that. I just told him no. I had a husband and two boys.

Seeing Juan David and his sister together and hanging out with them together prompted thoughts about what it might have been like to raise them together. What could've been. The life I once thought I was jumping into when we pursued their adoption.

Yet the burning question that haunted me the entire first week almost left me hanging. What did they know about me? I knew the papers explained that the family found in the United States for them didn't end up working out, due to our "unsuitability". Those papers never said our name, though. I knew I never told Laura that I planned to adopt her, so all she ever knew was that I called her often and planned to visit her and bring her presents. After the adoption failed, I always wondered if they told her the whole story.

After spending a week with her, I was pretty sure they didn't know. As I talked more about Julian over the course of the week, I could tell her grandpa started doing the math and realized there was more to the story that didn't quite compute with the amount of time since we adopted Juan David.

I wanted to spill it out, but I prayed that God would make that moment obvious. As our time started drawing to a close without that opportunity, I started to think that maybe things were better left unsaid.

Then two or three days before our departure, I went on a tour bus ride with Laura's mom and aunt while Juan David went with his sister to visit a friend. When we finished the tour bus ride, we sat down in the plaza and ordered something to drink. We sat talking about all three kids again, and suddenly her mom did the math, too, and realized that I was in Colombia with Julian before starting our process to adopt Juan David. I told her it was a long story, and she said, "Please do tell. I want to hear it."

Then the whole story poured out, and her mom hung on to every word. Even after getting interrupted by the kids showing up midway through, she turned back to me, saying, "Continue. I'm listening."

By the time I finished the story, her sister couldn't stop smiling, realizing how destiny truly brought Laura to them and Juan David to me. An absolute peace just washed over me. Holes filled in for them, gaps filled in for me. Just as I suspected, Laura never thought more of my phonecalls than just a friend of her host family that loved her and wanted to visit her. She remembered me and my phonecalls very clearly, but she never knew the real purpose behind why I called her so often for so long.

We got back to the house shortly after, and I went straight to my suitcase to get out a copy of my books. I went to the kitchen and handed them to her mom, saying, "Here's the whole story that I just told you."

She has studied quite a bit of English, though has been out of practice for many years. But she immediately starting reading. To see my book in her home, in her hands, dedicated to her daughter, filled me with a peace I didn't know I was still searching for.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Exploring Zaragoza

We sure did enjoy the next nine days as Laura and her mom took us all over Zaragoza, showing us just a little bit each day, allowing us to take it all in and truly experience the culture of the city. We also met her mom's family and spent a lot of time with them. Before we knew it, they called us family, too.

Zaragoza is beautiful. It holds so much incredible history that I couldn't even begin to absorb in my short time there. We visited huge, beautiful cathedrals, walked  past the ruins of a wall built by the Romans, took pictures of an old Roman amphitheater, toured a castle first built by the Arabs while Spain was under Muslim rule for 800 years and then taken over by the Christians/Catholics, visited an amusement park, went swimming, and learned to appreciate an afternoon siesta (nap). We walked across a rock bridge built by the Romans (but obviously reconstructed since then) on a daily basis. We saw plazas full of people everywhere we went and took part in the culture of taking time to sit, grab a drink, and enjoy each other's company. We tried a lot of new foods, and I ate so many different kinds of seafood that I can't even tell you what it all was. We ate mid/late-afternoon lunches and very late night dinners.  We slept in late every day and didn't go to bed until midnight or after every night.

I loved Spain, so much more than I expected. I struggled to use their vosotros verb form, but I communicated and understood just fine while there. I soaked in the tranquility of life that was so evident all around me (obviously even a little more tranquil than normal due to it being summer).

But all the touring around Spain was just an extra blessing. Watching Juan David and his sister reconnect and spend so much time together meant more to me than anything. Laura could not take her hands off of her brother, wanting to hold his hand all the time. And it didn't take long for them to pick up right where they left off seven years ago, picking on each other, squabbling, and teasing each other just like normal siblings do, as if they'd never lived a day apart. We also got to video call with their older brother, Julian, and finally catch all three of them in a picture together. I tried to send him as many pics as I could throughout the week. I wished so badly he could have been there, but I know his time will come that he can also reunite with his sister. If anything, our visit at least opened the door to that possibility.

Laura's mom embraced both of us and treated us like part of the family from the moment we arrived. This trip meant just as much to her as it did to us. Juan and I could fill her in on so many parts of her daughter's life that she missed and didn't have any way to fill without us. Because of our visit, she now knows so much more about her precious daughter. And now we have a relationship that will likely continue for the rest of our lives, two moms on two different continents, raising siblings who love each other with everything in them.

 Playing soccer together in one of the many, many parks.

 Some of the many typical foods we tried. 

Taken from one of the towers in the Cathedral.

 These pillars stood on both sides of the bridge with lions at the top. The lion is the symbol of Zaragoza. (The word Zaragoza evolved from the name Caesar Augustus.)
 The remains of a wall built by the Romans.

 Juan, being Juan.

 Tables and chairs everywhere.

 An old Roman amphitheater

 Irish coffee

 Siblings. Fighting one minute.

 Goofing off the next minute.

 Spain's version of a tortilla (which is atually just an egg and potato omelet).

 Migas (Spain's version of stuffing)
 Coffee. (Comes in very tiny cups!)

 A restaurant that specializes in typical food from Aragon (the "state" or region of Spain where Zaragoza is located)

 The original horchata (tastes quite a bit different than in Mexico)

 Open plazas everywhere. Since nearly everyone lives in an apartment (you don't even see houses), the open plazas and parks are essential to life there.
 A day for Julian. Finally all three siblings on one screen. They were all smiles through that phonecall. All of them. 
 The one remaining castle. Aljaferia.

 The throne room. Very intricately detailed.

 The Kings of Aragon. Juan found his name--four different times!

 Where the bullfights take place.

 More new foods.

 And little coffees.

 A newly developed area with very modern architecture, built in 2008, around the theme of water.

 From an aerial view, this building looks like a water drop.

Just a few little restaurants where we ate, learning to "tapear" (get a special bite-sized specialty from each restaurant before moving on to the next).

 The day Laura took us out. Visiting Parque Grande and enjoying each other's company.

 Crepes and coffee. Mmmmmmm.

 A tour bus ride all over Zaragoza.

 More seafood. Not even sure what it was, but they fried it like onion rings. Very tasty. 

 I even tried octopus on our last day. Tasty and chewy.

 Our last night. About five or six hours before we left for the bus station.
The wind didn't cooperate, but there are four flags. First, the flag of Zaragoza. Second the flag of Spain. Third, the flag of Aragon. Fourth, the flag of Europe. You saw all four of these flags hanging together often. 

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of many sights in Zaragoza. Sorry to put it all in one post, but I couldn't figure out how to divide it all. We embarked on our journey without a single plan in place. People asked us what we were going to do while there, and since we didn't really even know Laura's mom yet, we didn't plan anything and figured we'd just see how things went. Once we got there, we found that she had planned out every single day for us and very intentionally gave us a taste of not only the history and culture of Zaragoza, but also a glimpse into the beautiful life God had given to Laura over the last six years and a half years since Juan David had seen her last. 

The day that Laura herself took us out, after riding the little three and four wheelers around the park, we sat down and had something to drink together. I mentioned to her about what a wonderful life she's had in Spain, saying she must be very happy there. She just confidently smiled and said, "Yes, I really am." As the mom who prepared for her and lost her, it did my heart a world of good to hear that straight from her. 

No more wondering about her or what kind of life she lived. We saw it. We tasted it. And now we are a part of it again.