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When I was failing.

“I love America…”

“Me too…”

“What do you love about it?”

“Oh, I love how clean it is.  And how friendly people are, like, you could be walking down the street and people would smile at you, or wave.”

“I know!  Yeah, I love that, too…”

“You’re really blessed…”



I had been feeling like a mother failure, like I could get zero things right.  Like I couldn’t give the people I love what they need, everything was always a mess.  I was failing.  I was.  This Spring, before Poppy came home, Maria was in school full time, an amazing school where she was growing and learning, a carpool even.  The boys had preschool two mornings a week, so those mornings I could work on things, think things.  Poppy came home in the summer, no school.  Then our school closed down a week before it started.  There would be no school for my three older kids.  And our baby sitter moved to Mexico to change people’s lives for the better….  My mom hurt her knee and couldn’t walk.  No school, no people.  So we were at home, with a toddler who needed to bond, and children who needed me, too.  Andrew’s work ramped up, we scrambled for a school that wasn’t the failing public middle school near us…I filled out packet after packet, went to school meetings as other schools started.  Meanwhile, my kids wanted all of me, all the time.  I wanted to give them everything, but felt myself…failing a silent war, hidden.  “I’m failing…I can’t…” as each day bled into the next.  You can’t pour into others from an empty cup.


That weekend Nadia told us she got her Visa and could come visit.

It didn’t even seem like a thought in my head, “Sure, of course, come,” nothing at this point could seem like too much.  There could be nothing else.  Then I started to second guess, “It really is bad timing…maybe we should just relax,” an actual impossibility, but I don’t know, maybe we should?  But we kept our word, our home open, to honor her and the Lord, muscle memory that it is still the best idea.  But seriously, where has God been for me?  I’m drowning…


The sun is high in the sky and relentless on our necks, burning and hot.  Finley is clutching his baby Rush close, his sweaty hands sticking to her plastic head, Maria has hers, Mae under her arm, I have a tight grip on wiggly Elijah and Poppy is nestled on daddy’s sweaty back in the carrier.  Enrique Igelsias plays loudly in a shopping center we walk through, I love this song, the loud latin beat, it would never be this loud anywhere north of here.  People are selling tamales and cheap Halloween costumes, then we see her.  She is waving brightly, a huge, kind, quiet, grin, we wave back and run to hug.  We are all sweating in the heat, we can see Mexico through the chain link fence just beyond our vision.  Men holding rifles and army boots.

She rolls her suitcase to our van and we load everyone inside, a quick stop into Old Town for lunch.  “Como estas, amiga?”

“Bien, bueno verte, y usted?”

“Mejor ahora,” I smile.


Andrew and I met her when she was a young sassy and smart 9 year old living in Los Angelitos orphanage.  She was vibrant, silly and full of life surrounded by her friends who were like sisters, other orphans.

Now, while we eat lunch, she is 20 years old and in law school.  She still lives at the orphanage and goes to night classes.

Poppy hands the waitress with red dyed hair a drawing, the waitress who speaks Spanish and is beautiful holds it to her heart, “I think I’m going to cry,” she says, as Poppy beams at her.

Classic Poppy.

Nadia tells me about school, we remember past times together.  She has a very calming presence.  We drive home, and she sits quietly on the floor with the kids to play games with them.  “Cada una es tan lindo, me cae bien,” she told me.

“Gracias, estoy feliz que estas aqui…”

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The little artist, always drawing…



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We pull out the cranium game we have never played before, the $2 garage sale sticker still on it.  We love it.  Why don’t we play this more often.  Finley is actually pretty great at it, even though we thought he’d be behind.



I give her the book I’ve been meaning to give her for years.  I ask her her favorite meal, “Pasta con carne,” she smiles.  Something I never make.  It’s a crowd pleaser and everyone begs for more until the giant ceramic bowl is empty.  Not bad, maybe I should make comfort food more often.

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That night after we put the little kids to bed.  Finley, my shy one, asks Nadia to read him a book.  Andrew and I stare at each other…





Once the little ones are asleep, Andrew and I sit on the couch with the girls in the living room.  We play George Winston and we each read our books together, peaceful, together.  Maria reading her Sadie Robertson book, Nadia reading her new one from us.  Maria and Nadia become close, asking each other questions about the orphanages they come from.  It’s sweet to see as Maria can be very shy around new people, but Nadia is so calming and kind.  We feel so glad she is here, we all feel peaceful and united.  Then she has a memory;

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“Maria,” she tells her in English that is actually quite great, smiling, “I remember your mom coming to Mexico and telling us all not to worry about boys, and to not worry about dating, but to study in school and know God’s love,” Maria smiles, and I laugh.  I am caught off guard that she would remember that as I remember it for the first time myself.  Remember circling the girls together as I speak quick, flawed Spanish, hoping my words would come together enough that they will know, deep down, their worth and dignity, their potential and intelligence.  Shy and humble, they would nod, or giggle, “No novios!”  I would clap my hands.

“I remember it so well…” Nadia smiled up at me.

I was shocked.  Maybe I wasn’t a total failure–that was my first thought from someone remembering something kind about me.  This memory threw something into my heart, knocking out some turmoil.  My old life, but maybe it’s my life here, too.  I think about how I almost thought I should ‘relax’ this weekend, even though in this moment was the most relaxed and peaceful I’d felt in a month.

Maria grew tired and bid us farewell, closing her book.  The book she LOVES and showed every page to Nadia. “Goodnight, Maria,” Nadia smiles.  Maria beams at her new friend, their connection strong already, hugging each of us.

Andrew and I sit on the couch with Nadia, and offer our pat life advice for young people, but she tells us of her life.  Tijuana doesn’t have libraries, you can’t open a bank account with interest, they charge you money.  “The government just keeps the money.”

And as we sat on the couch with Nadia, something was happening in my heart that you would normally look to a vacation to find–you know, spend all your money, build up your hopes that you will be very relaxed and lay by the pool and go out to filling dinners, but then you just feel fat and broke…well, I don’t know, maybe it’s great–I honestly forget.

She told me how beautiful the kids are.  How much Finley talks, how verbal and smart he is, but she really meant it, like she wanted to know how so she could teach the kids at the orphanage.   I wanted to say, “You mean wild animals?”  But she only said these nice, kind things, not knowing how much my weary heart needed to hear it.  “I noticed too that you don’t spank them when they are naughty, you take your time and talk to them?  We don’t do that in Mexico.”  I laughed, “Haha, thanks, yeah, we have a whole separate approach that takes longer, but should be good in the long run….but thanks for noticing that, I feel like I should win an award every time I don’t,” and she and I laughed.  I felt happy, my unseen life’s work being noticed as good.  It’s one thing to receive a compliment from someone well meaning, it’s another to have someone so kind and humble to actually see you.  My goal was that she would feel that way, yet, here we were both feeling it.


She said she loves being here, that it feels like family and that it’s so peaceful and calm, all things I had previously been self conscious of.  Andrew and I both smiled, “Maybe I’m not failing at life…and motherhood…” I said to Andrew, “What!?  Why would you think you are?”

“Oh, have we not chatted in a while?”

She tells me of the other girls.  They have fallen into the terrible statistics.  The ones we all know and hear about orphans, the ones who’s parents gave them up, then they were never adopted.  The statistics that reflect broken hearts needing nothing more than to be numbed from their deep pain.  Decisions reflecting their low sense of self worth, pennies instead of rubies–or God himself giving his life for them.  Everything you would never want for the ones you love.  Andrew and I felt like a boulder sat on our chests.

“Just 3 of us, we are in school.  But I worry about myself, I have been researching attachment disorder…what if I…”

We talk long and hard about trauma and the need for healing.  That there is nothing, no hurt, that you can’t heal from, even the basic understanding and knowledge she is already seeking can be those first steps, but there is more out there, powerful things.  We talk about counseling and the bright light that is it, and how if she starts now, by the time she is a wife and mother, those hurt feelings can be resolved.  She looks hopeful, relieved.  Like maybe she wouldn’t be a failure.

I tell her she will not be, I know it to be true.

“We’ll pay for you, just come up, like once a month, it’s the best, seriously, you’ll love it.  It takes a lot of daily strain and work to cope with our trauma and bad feelings everyday, to burry them so we don’t feel them, but they never go away until we confront them.  Many times we can’t do that on our own, only in counseling.   And we don’t even know we aren’t free.  But when we go, and we become free, our world is bright and we have more joy, can connect and love like never before.  It’s true freedom…”

“When…” she starts to ask.

We find a Spanish speaking counselor who can meet with her on the one morning she has free to be here, Mondays before we take her home to Mexico for night class, she sounds wonderful and is wonderfully inexpensive.  It’s too perfect.

Finley started his new school that Monday, 90% in Spanish, which he has heard all weekend because she had been here, something I couldn’t have organized if I tried.  The night before school he tried to speak Spanish to her, and she cheered for him.

Nadia watched the children at home so Andrew and I can have a special morning just taking Finley to his first day, then Nadia and I went to yoga.  It was honestly, a dream come true, and I couldn’t even feel guilty for the moment away because it was helping Nadia, too…  We were both feeling amazing, all of us were.

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As we drive towards the border, I reflect on the fact that it couldn’t have been a better, more perfect, kind, relaxing weekend for all of us.  Every single one of us.  From tiny kid, to weary adult, from ex-orphan to current orphan, we found God’s goodness from being together.  To pull me out of my self inflicted pit.

And honestly since then, it’s like a reset button has been pushed.  We’re good, I’m good, life is reset.  I’ve been wondering if there was something deeper happening.  Nadia will be back soon, too.  I need to get some sort of remembrance tattoo to know Saying Yes to God is the key to the intangibles our heart needs.  Even Elijah, he’s had no behavior issues since she’s been here, which is good for him.  Finley marched into his new Spanish speaking school so ready, so many little things I would hope for, but would have been lacking without welcoming our guest.


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She said, “Being here feels like home to me,”  We smiled, “For us, too.”

After school Finley stomped his little foot, “This is NOT a good day!”

“Why, Finley?” Nadia asked him quietly, making eye contact with him so gently.

He pointed at her with all his emotions in the tip of his finger, “For, Nadia has to go home…”

“Oh Finley, I love you too.  But you are my family, too, and I will be back.” And his switch flipped, he was happy again.

Maria, Nadia and I loaded up and headed down to Mexico.  We walked her under the great tunnel, carrying her suitcases loaded with some donations and waved to her as she walked through the metal toothed, spiral doors, abuelitas and homeless men followed.

Maria peered in through the gates as she walked away solemnly.

“I think I’m really lucky to live here,” she told me as we sped walked over broken concrete curbs towards are car.

“Do you?”

“Yeah,” she smiled, “Actually, yeah, I am.”

I don’t know if or how God is calling you, but I do know this; People are not a distraction from our work and our time, but people and loving them is the best recipient of our love and time.

He knows everything inside and out, and he knows where our freedom lies, and it’s nothing that can be merchandised or sold.  It’s backwards economy where everyone gets healed.


{Ten years ago}




Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:30




I’m still learning




Our home was built decades ago when the land was ripe with avocado trees, our home was their tiny ranch.  It is not built of wood, but designed of stone and cement, angled in such a way that in the heat of the afternoon, shadows will darken and cool.

Yesterday, we had family photos taken.  I had bought sandals for Poppy on Craigslist, tried to lay out matching clothes.  One by one in the late afternoon as I tried to run a brush through my own hair, a child arose from their nap and came to join. Little bodies running around, some needing to be held, arms up to me, pout on their lips as I try to lay out clothes, smooth hair with the palm of my hand.

“Where are any of your shoes, Elijah?” I ask as he shrugs and runs outside, his long wet hair flowing wildly behind him, where are the hair cutting scissors?  The minutes fly by as the sun reaches the end of the day.

Andrew is home, one boy whines to be held, one small girl takes off the new sandals and puts on daddy’s boots, I cut Andrew’s hair, and try to find Elijah’s hair next, “I’m sort of calm…” he offers as I snip.

The time is gone, I start to panic.  Maria who has been ready for a while sees the shift in my mind as she stands in the hallway, darkened by the afternoon shadows, and smoothes her new dress down with the palms of her hands, she doesn’t say anything for a little while.

Then, quietly, not wanting to interfere, but seeing me, “Mama…” she says quietly, I can barely see her standing in the afternoon hallway of our home.

She plays with the edges of her dress, “Mama, how can I help you?”  Kids are stomping, undressing, pushing hair in wild directions, and the question causes me to catch my breath.  I breathe out slowly, pulled from the space I had entered.

“Honey,” I smile,  “You’re just the best…”

She beams at me with her kindest smile, “No you’re the best, mom…” undeserved words for me.

I ask her to find the picnic blanket, and find Elijah’s shoes and she pops off and finds easy success, “Buddy,” she whispers to Elijah sitting next to him on the red earth colored tiles, “You need to keep your shoes in your room, not all throughout the trees outside,” Elijah smiles and nods along, not listening.

From that moment on, each child was dressed and put in the car and we drove away to our smiling friends holding their cameras.  The kids did as best they could, Poppy exploding with laughter at any dog walking by on a leash.

How quickly I can loose my focus, to lament and not notice what is right in front of me and the hectic messes, to see what shouldn’t be, and not what is just beyond my sight.  The flowers growing wild out my window, the daughter growing in my home, kind hearted and filled with peaceful love.  The light pouring recklessly through my window, the husband and his long list of kind ways he has served us in just this one day.  God cracks open the sky and fills my home, our homes with, with kindness that if I am not careful will go unseen, lost.  The purest of gifts happening while I am distracted.

I can spend my days waiting, or trying to get ready to rush to the next, and the next, without breathing or living, or like my wiser family members, create a culture of care, simple love.  To live long enough to see God dwelling in our home, and in each of us, even me.


To good endings to a long day because of kindness, and the beauty the can go unseen.  To the gifts God has given me, undeserved, but appreciated when I am wise enough.


//We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1. cor. 13:12-13

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A Hosting Story: Ally

Our youngest son, Kieran, had many health problems in his first year of life. It was a crazy year with hospitalizations, doctor’s appointments, feeding schedule, pumping schedules; chaos. We had finally reached the calm after the storm and our family and marriage were in a very good place.  THEN–we had friends who had hosted the previous summer and were knee deep in adoption. Our friend had made her first trip to UA and had written a blog on her experience and shared some pictures from her trip. One of the girls that she met while there looked just like me as a little girl. My husband and I both mentioned this to one another, and then didn’t say anymore about it. A few days later, I confessed to my husband that I could not stop thinking about this child, that I had even dreamed about her at night.  He said he had been thinking about her, too. We had never talked about hosting or adoption, and all of a sudden I was having thoughts of, “do I have a daughter already somewhere out there waiting for me?”

I am the oldest of three girls, and I grew up playing mommy to my younger sisters and dreaming of the day when I would have a little girl. Well, we have three boys… Ages 7, 4, and 1–busy.  My dreams of having a daughter never came to be, at least not in the way that I had planned for it to happen. My oldest has always dreamed of having a sister as well, and was disappointed to find out after each of my ultrasounds that we were having more boys. We looked into it, and this particular girl that our friend had met was already committed to being hosted by another family, but once our hearts had been opened to the possibility of hosting, we didn’t feel like we could go back. So we started searching photolistings of other kids in need. Looking for the girl who we felt would be a fit for our family. The funny thing is that I was initially looking for a younger girl, but Ally* was suggested to us, and we decided to just go for it; to just stop trying to be in control–and just let it happen.

It’s funny, because in our prehost training, they asked what we we worried about, and people had a wide range of concerns, but mine was actually saying goodbye (before we’d even said hello). Our oldest has a difficult time with change, and I was worried about him getting attached and then having to say goodbye. (He’s a little like me.) We have had friends and family visit, and when they leave, he is devastated, and I was worried for him. Aside from that concern, we were mostly just excited…

Ally arrived late at night after nearly 24 hours of traveling. It was her first time ever riding on a plane and she had been up since around 3am her time. She stepped out of the elevator at the airport and looked like she might cry, a combination of being overwhelmed, exhausted, and relieved.

I hugged her and held her and tried to convey how happy we were to have her here despite the language barrier. This was the first of many times I heard, “I no understand.” She held my hand on the way to the car and held it until she left. Anytime we walked from the car to the store, or walked around sightseeing, sitting on the couch watching tv, and in the car the entire way to the airport to take her home, we held hands. My 4 year old doesn’t want to hold my hand half the time, so to have a teenager want to have this physical contact, this mother’s touch, really got my heart.  To think what is so normal for my boys to the point they don’t need it, is a gift to her.  The simplest, and yet rarest, gift for her.


Our hosting experience went amazingly well. She goofed off with our boys, and read in her room when she needed some quiet time. She went boogie boarding, and water sliding, and rode her first roller coaster (which she loved!) She offered to help in the kitchen, and helped bring in groceries and did things even without being asked, I can still hear her say, “you need help?”

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The weeks flew by and before we knew it, it was time for her to leave. The countdown to her departure weighed heavy on all of our hearts. If we could have just kept here here and not sent her home–we would have.


But, departure day came, dark and early (we left for the airport a 4am). We met her AAI rep at the airport, and tried to hold back our tears. When she realized that we would not be going through security with her and we had to say out final goodbyes then and there, she couldn’t hold it together anymore and neither could I. We crouched down and just held onto one another in the lobby of the airport. I thought the previous year that we had with Kieran’s medical concerns was hard, but this was like putting one of my kids on a plane and not knowing when I would ever see or hear from them again. It was gut wrenching. I cried all the way home and was in a fog for most of that first day. Watching flight tracker and keeping tabs on where in the world she was. Everyone told me that it would get easier, and it did, but it literally took 3-4 weeks, and even now it’s hard, that what love does, it gets into your heart.  That first week my oldest son sobbed himself to sleep every night. My boys still get up every morning and ask if I’ve heard from Ally.  They draw her pictures and take silly pictures to send to her. They ask when she’s coming back and if we will see her again. I always say that I hope so… We miss her so much.  It seems so crazy to think about from the outside, from the before hosting perspective. To open your home to a stranger, one who doesn’t even speak the same language, and orphan with nothing, and to completely care for this person and consider them a part of your family in a few short weeks. But it happens, it happened, and I now have a daughter who lives on the other side of the world, because after this summer she is part of our family. We love her, and despite the pain of love, loving is worth it.

I feel like though this whole process I am constantly being reminded that I’m not the one in control. That it’s not about my plan. I just have to let go and let Him take control of the next steps, the plan for each of our lives.



Thank you for sharing, Sara!  Although the ending may seem hard, or without closure, things always have a way of resolving themselves over time.  I know this family would love to be encouraged along their journey as they have spent their summer forever changing the life of an orphan for for the better.  For the first time she can now say she is loved, and nothing guides a heart as much as those simple words.

For more information on Orphan hosting, visit here: http://nhfc.org/

or https://www.facebook.com/Orphanhosting?fref=ts

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