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.