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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.

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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


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  • Kate October 7, 2015, 2:21 pm

    So good. That is all.

  • Lauren October 7, 2015, 6:24 pm

    Oh, Amy. You’ll never know how much your words have meant to me. On my kitchen chalk-board I have this written: “The purest of gifts are happening while I am distracted”. It’s helping me immeasurably to be present in my life and truly appreciate it, how beautiful, how lucky I am.

  • Hannah H. October 8, 2015, 5:24 am

    What a great reminder for us all. Thank you. And I’m glad you all left your visit so encouraged! I lived in Argentina for a time and I think the biggest thing I learned from their culture was the value of people…people are more important than schedules and accomplishments, relationships are important. My Argentine spiritual leader always reminded us that what lasts for eternity are God, His people and His word. I needed your reminder as I’m in the midst of parenting toddlers. Thanks again!

  • Fatcat October 8, 2015, 6:53 am


  • Crystal October 8, 2015, 7:38 am

    I seriously think we need to get stationed near you.

  • Maria Torres Place October 8, 2015, 3:58 pm

    I love following you family’s journey. Thank you for sharing. We also go to NCC. I met you there once. Can’t wait to run into you again and see Ms Poppy. Thank you for sharing and God Bless your family ❤️

  • Jane October 13, 2015, 10:43 am

    I remember that you wanted to adopt some of the orphans from Mexico before you adopted Maria and you were not allowed. Yet you have kept up the relationships. You may not be the parents that you hoped to be for Nadia but it looks like you are still part of her extended family, more like an aunt, uncle and younger cousins. Thanks for sharing the blessings with those of us that just read about it. You always encourage me to love more.