Sunday, September 27, 2015


Yesterday I had the honor of attending the dedication for a new building and ministry center in Back2Back's Cancun site.  A woman named Judy, who over my years living in Mexico, I came to know, love and admire died of leukemia about a year ago.  In her honor, her family donated what became the building costs for a beautiful and expansive community center in an impoverished community near the airport in Cancun.

Overwhelming emotions.

To say that I felt overwhelming emotions during this dedication is probably an understatement.

Some incredibly beautiful memories and articulate words were shared of Judy, of her impact, the lives she touched, the children that her and I both have adored over the years.  Her 4 children and husband were in attendance, her sisters, extended family, neighbors, friends, loved ones, some Back2back staff from various sites - all flew in to celebrate her life and her love for the orphans of Mexico.

Judy and I used to talk quite a bit online.  In her last months before she died, she often shared her wishes and prayer requests for her kids... her desires to see them find joy in the Lord, in serving Him, in knowing Him, in trusting Him. It was incredibly moving to see her 4 children serving together in a place that meant so much to their mother - honoring her memory and probably experiencing some of that same joy as they served little brown faces in the hot Cancun sun.

It was pouring rain this weekend in the slums near Cancun.  I stood watching the rain fall on this well which is one of the only sources of water currently on the property.  Seeing it reminded me of the concept of source - of our sources for water, for restoration, to be cleansed, renewed - of my sources of joy.

I just kept thinking about joy and about how God is so invitational to his children.  He gives us opportunity after opportunity to co-labor with him as he moves, heals, restores, refreshes, revives, mends, rescues and pursues those around us.  I don't know if you are aware of this but God is a God who deeply loves, deeply cares, and isn't content to just watch us go through life miserable, deflated, unmotivated, hopeless.
God is active.
He is moving.
Right now.
Right now God is at work in your family, your community, your place of work.  And we can either chose to partner with Him in what He is already doing - where He is already ministering, whispering, prompting, stirring OR I can chose to just do my own thing and pursue my own agenda.  But man... I just have to say that what literally took my breath away this past weekend in that beautiful community center and building dedication was the realization of how EXTRAVAGANT God has been in my own life.  He has been SO GENEROUS to give me such an incredible opportunity to serve orphans everyday for the past 7 years plus as my full time occupation.  He has invited me and continues to invite me every single day to further HIS agenda, HIS storyline as He moves all around me to restore and heal that which the enemy has tried to steal and destroy.  When we co-labor with God, there is no place that Gods love can't reach.

My God is a God of hope.
He is abundant grace and forgiveness.
He is peace.

His is authentic joy.

I have found so much JOY in partnering with whatever I sense God is up to around me - the child who needs a hug, the boys who needed a foster mom for a few years, the kids who needed a tutor, the person sitting next to me who needs to hear the gospel message in a raw and honest conversation, the mom who needs to know she's seen, the boy who needed to know his preciousness, and on and on and on.

I just can't believe that serving the least of these is somehow my year round job.

I can't believe that I still live in Mexico after all these years. (and Lord and everyone else knows that I've tried to quit about 100 times)

To whoever is still reading this - bonus points for you - but just hear this one thing: Joy comes from surrendering your desires and your ambitions long enough to listen and watch for what God is up to and then joining Him as he furthers his kingdom.  Who around you at your place of work or in your home of amongst your friends needs encouragement or a tangible reminder of how valuable they are to their creator?  What might God be prompting you to join him in this week?  Who might he be calling you to serve, forgive, be patient with or love?  When God whispers, "Go. Come on.  Let's do this." let us say, "YES!" and follow him into joy.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Little Nuggets

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.... For in him we live and move and have our being."  -- Acts 17:24-28

Man... this blog post has been bubbling up for weeks inside of me and I'm thrilled to finally have the time to sit down and type it out so you can share in my joy. For real. Just JOY.

Each summer, each of our Back2Back sites around the globe, is blessed with the gift of college students who come to serve alongside our full-time staff for a month or two at a time.  If you've never been to a Back2back site in the summer and seen how hard these kids work - let me just paint a picture for you...

They get up early to prep everything for the day.
They make lunch for hundreds of people everyday for 60 days.
They literally scrub trash cans on Saturdays.
They bleach every surface imaginable all the time and bleach their own intern shirts.
They are the ones who clean up everything - projects, cook outs, craft bins, coolers at the end of the day - the pool bathrooms - the dorms week after week.
They leave summer jobs, summer classes, friends, family.
They celebrate the 4th of July with tacos in a foreign country.
They don't get paid.  In fact, they pay B2B for room and board in order to serve our ministry.

As some of you recall, I served with Back2Back some 9 summers ago as one of the summer Monterrey interns. I delayed my college graduation from the University of Florida and left my summer job in order to do so.  I know intimately the ins and outs, the struggles and privileges, the sacrifices and rewards of being an intern around here.

So this summer, no exception, our Monterrey site went through intern applications and made our selections and by the grace of God had probably the best intern crew ever this summer.  They had so much energy, wit, laughter, patience, humility, heart, guts, and strength.

In this world, I think there are 2 types of people - those who GIVE life and those who seem to TAKE the life out of you.  You know the type - you spend the afternoon with someone and when it's over and you're finally at home you think to yourself, "wow what a great day!  I feel so much fuller from spending time with _____."  or the opposite is true and you think something like, "wow that person really sucked the life right out of me.  I hope they don't call me and ask me to go ____ with them again next week."

Well this summer our interns were such life givers.

I was SO BLESSED by them.

So let's back up a bit... I spent the month of May praying about this upcoming summer - my own energy levels, that I'd be able to learn overnight how to project plan and lead groups at Douglas this summer, for my attitude through the exhaustion of day after day, week after week non-stop mission guests to lead and host.  I prayed that Jeremiah 17 would be true of me - that I could be someone who trusts in the Lord to fill me who wouldn't fear when heat/stress/conflict/disappointment came and who wouldn't worry in a year of drought but who would never fail to bear fruit in all circumstances.  I prayed specifically that God would bring me people who would give life in conversation - group members, summer staff or interns - I didn't really care who it came from - I just knew I was craving some positive conversations.

God answered my prayers in the form of interns.  They made me laugh till my abs hurt, put stupid apps that I hardly know how to use on my phone, brought a smile to my face when I needed it, picked up a heavy bin when I couldn't, babysat so I could spend time with my best friend who was leaving Monterrey, and endlessly encouraged me and a lot of our staff.

Some staff are asked to mentor or disciple one or several of these summer interns while they are living on our campus.  I was given 2 and in so many ways I wish that I had time for every single one of the interns.  I learned from and was blessed by these beautiful souls far more than I'm sure I did them.

As I reflect back on everything that I loved about this summer - I keep meditating on this passage:

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.... For in him we live and move and have our being."  -- Acts 17:24-28

God doesn't need us.  He doesn't need me here in Monterrey, Mexico to accomplish his goals.  But He knew before the beginning of time that I'd live here and serve here for years.  He, in his generosity, allows us sometimes to join in whatever He is up to - loving, serving, mending, supporting, guiding, pursuing, encouraging.... He let's us in on it and we get to share in the joy of seeing broken souls find their identity in HIM - find out the truth about who they really are - their real potential and then sometimes we get to watch that transformation happen.  He lets us watch flowers bloom out of the weeds.  Forgotten orphans, defeated, broken, hurting and insecure find the truth and break through the chains of lies that have held them back from walking in the light of their true worth.  I've learned over the years that most orphans have a shame core for their belief system that is so huge it's like the size of Texas.  They don't believe in themselves - they feel unloved, unwanted and worthless.  But I know the truth about these kids - how precious they are - how beautiful they are - how handsome - how smart - how talented.  Man it's a privilege to get to tell them that they are worth something day in and day out.  Thank you to each and every one of you who donate to Back2Back each month so I can live and serve here.

And to all you interns - you are incredible.  THANK YOU for serving here this summer.  Thank you for sacrificing your summers to love on some of my favorite kids.  Thank you for carrying so many of our staff's burdens day in and day out.  You brought me joy.  You this summer gave me life.  May the Lord bless you for your servants' hearts and for all the blood, sweat and tears you left here in Monterrey.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Exciting News!

Ladies and Gentlemen.... boys and girls... I have exciting news....

No I'm not pregnant... no I'm not engaged... it's better...

I got a HUGE scholarship to attend TCU's TBRI Professional Training Program this fall. 

So what is TRBI you might ask?  Directly from their website...

Developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at the TCU Institute of Child Development, Trust-Based Relational Interventions® (TBRI®) is an emerging intervention model for a wide range of childhood behavioral problems. It has been applied successfully in a variety of contexts, and with many children for whom numerous other interventions have failed (e.g., medications, cognitive-behavioral therapies.) TBRI® is based on a solid foundation of neuropsychological theory and research, tempered by humanitarian principles. It is a family-based intervention that is designed for children who have experienced relationship-based traumas such as institutionalization, multiple foster placements, maltreatment, and/or neglect. For the past ten years, Drs. Purvis and Cross have been implementing and evaluating TBRI® , and their strategies have proven extremely effective in creating healing environments for children who have come from “hard places.”

If I successfully meet all course requirements - 10 weeks of pre-course homework, the 40 hour on site course in Dallas in October, and then 10 weeks of post-course homework along with some other stuff then I could officially be a certified TBRI educator. 

This is such a HUGE blessing to me for a variety of reasons:
1. I'm so passionate about this research and how I've seen it positively impact the kids I work with
2. I currently teach TBRI principles to B2B staff, children's home caregivers and staff, our local Mexican volunteers, and American group members so it'd be awesome to be certified
3. Show Hope gave me a big scholarship to attend this rather expensive course
4. Dr. Karyn Purvis is incredible and basically the world's leading researcher in not just what can go wrong with kids from hard places but in HOW TO HELP THEM HEAL.  They are teaching techniques to bring healing.  
5.  I get to go officially check out TCU's campus and this program to see if I actually want to get my masters in the future sometime from TCU in Developmental Trauma

So there you have it... Thank you Show Hope for the scholarship.  Thank you Back2Back for supporting this endeavor. Thank you Karyn Purvis for sharing your research and work. 

So in all my spare time (total joke there - I'm SO BUSY this summer) - I'll be completing homework and assignments and quizes.  JOY. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer FUN

I've got one word to describe this summer.... FUN!

One of my jobs here at Back2Back is.... I work with all the mission guests who go to Casa Hogar Douglas (home where I used to live) and it's been a great summer so far.  I've been helping out by doing a lot of our project planning and materials shopping.  I think the employees at Home Depot run in the opposite direction when they see me coming up the isle at this point.  We've installed so many ceiling fans at Douglas this summer that I bought one Home Depot completely out of a certain type of fan. From digging trenches, installing fans, installing mosquito screens on windows, fixing some roofs to installing kitchen shelving... so far our visiting groups have made such an impact.  I love to get things done and I'm very much so looking forward to our next week of guests to help us knock some projects out and get them done.

Back2back's summer is pretty jam packed with American mission teams week after week and one of the best parts of all the craziness of a typical mission trip week with Back2back Monterrey I think is a really good field trip.

One day we brought all the kids from the children's home to a big river with a rope swing and had pretty much the best day ever.
this little guy is ALWAYS the first kid in the river and the last one out

would you believe I flew off this rope swing about 5 times? featured above is my Victor

several of the youngest boys decided that the best way to enjoy a day at the river was to collect frogs and any and all bugs along the river bank

Then there was the time that we went to a Chuck E Cheese type place with an all you can eat pizza buffet and unlimited arcade games. The owners of Incredible Pizza in Monterrey gave us the most incredible and generous pricing packet to make this field trip possible for the children's home.  I pray God blesses them for blessing some of my favorite little ones. 

we drove go carts

played any and every game they had

and won about 30,000 tickets

Also loved the day when we took a roof tarp, covered it with bubbles and went slip n sliding...

What to know the best part?!?!? 

Summer isn't over yet.  It's only July.... more to come.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Friday Night Lights

One of my favorite TV shows is Friday Night Lights.  I love american football and the show is just too good not to love.  The high school coach on the show has a saying with his football team and they say it over and over again...

"clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

Lately, I've attended a lot of friday night soccer games here in Monterrey.  I've sat on the sidelines in thunderstorms and made my rain jacket work really hard, been eaten alive by mosquitos, one night some red ants attacked me and I've seen my boys lose about 10 games this year.  Truth be told, they have improved SO MUCH in the past 3 years and I attribute it all to their soccer coach Checko who trains them each week.  They have developed pretty decent ball movement, teamwork, solid defensive skills, heart, guts, and no fear. But even so, they don't always come away with a W at the end of the night.

But for me, watching them play soccer is sometimes a rather holy moment... a thin place... where the space between heaven and earth just seems so paper thin.  My soul is full when I watch them laugh and smile, dance like Ronaldo after someone scores a goal, when they play a pick up game like the Bad News Bears on a side field wearing converse and jeans.  They light up with joy, laughter, life and so do I.  In their messed up situation - there is beauty - there is joy.

Also, some of these boys are SO TALENTED at soccer.  They dance on the field.  They play against grown adult men and school them.

Join me in praying for the Douglas boys to have:
clear eyes - Godly vision
full hearts - full of joy and passion
success in the things that matter

1 Corinthians 10:31

Monday, July 6, 2015

CAFO Summit of the Orphan 2015

Better late than never... In May, I was able to attend the Christian Alliance for the Oprhan's Summit of the Orphan in Nashville, TN.  This year was my 6th year in a row attending this conference.  I've learned more from attending this conference each year than I did in my entire college career.  It was at this conference that I first heard about:

* what Casa Viva was doing to establish foster care as an alternative to institutionalized care for kids in Costa Rica
* how sometimes American's efforts to help in 3rd world countries can be harmful
* Karyn Purvis, TCU's Institute of Child Development, TBRI
* the spectrum of orphan care options for vulnerable kids
* Jayne Schooler's trainings in Eastern European orphanages
* wisdom guided love
* The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis was available in spanish
* The Connection Where Hearts Meet study
* Kid Calm the best liquid Omega 3 supplement ever

I could go on and on because the truth is, I've learned SO MUCH at this conference! I've been so encouraged by the speakers who have shared about their experiences in foster care, adoption and global orphan care efforts.  I've been so encouraged to hear leaders in the field of orphan care share the sometimes hard honest truth regarding not only their successes but their most defeating moments.

I've learned something in my own 7 years of serving orphans in Monterrey, Mexico... orphan care is a very opposed work.  Satan loves to prey on vulnerable, defenseless, voiceless, helpless orphans. Generational sin and it's effects are real.  This is a very difficult and often defeating line of work.

But here is something else I've learned in these past 7 years - one day Jesus will come back and there will be no more pain, no more crying, no more suffering, no more sin, no more abuse, no more neglect, no more rape cases, no more orphans.  Jesus will come back and He will right every wrong because he is the Lord of Justice and truth.  He will right every wrong and dry every tear from every eye. He will place every child in a family.  Families won't fall apart.  Husbands will stay with their wives and will love their children.  There won't be anymore orphanages in heaven.  We'll be out of work in this orphan care world that God has placed me in.

And here is something else I've learned over the years here - God has provided the resources that these precious children need.  God has given to us everything that we need to love and serve the orphans overseas and in our own backyard.  We just have to listen to his voice, say YES when he asks us to welcome someone into our home or family. God will fill us with everything we need to be the difference in the life of maybe just one child.  But for that one child, for that one beautiful face, for those 10 fingers, for that image bearer of our God - it matters.  It makes all the difference.  It changes their lives.  What a beautiful, undeserved honor, what a holy calling to have one of these beautiful children to trust you, accept your healing hugs and to love you back.

I'm so grateful to be able to live and serve here.  God is so good.  He is so faithful.  He loves these kids so much.  How do I know?  Because my love for each of their brown little faces grows with each passing day.

In other news... because I digressed a bit in this post... this year, I was invited to help present a breakout session with Jayne Schooler at the Summit this year in Nashville.  It was an honor.

Be blessed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Volunteer Training

This month, I had the privilege of training the newest Back2Back Monterrey volunteer recruits. About 45 volunteers from local area churches came together to attend a training on providing trauma competent care to the orphans we serve.

We tailored the training to the various roles these volunteers will fill - tutoring, mentoring, discipling, reading programs, music lessons, etc.  Our desire was for the volunteers to better understand the profile of child they'd be working with in the orphanages - to understand better how past trauma often impacts a child's ability to focus, learn, and behave appropriately.

As we prepared to provide this training, I just kept asking myself, "If these people were about to sit down with my 10 boys, what would I tell them?  What would help them be successful with my kids?" What we came up with turned into a list of practical tips for ways that these volunteers can empower our kids to be successful each time that they have the opportunity to interact with them.

I'll give you some examples:
* Did you know that chronic dehydration is very common in orphanage settings and often leads to an increase in violent behavior in children?  Studies show that by hydrating children with water, 80% of violent behavior can be decreased.

* Did you know that chewing gum or sucking on a lollypop is scientifically proven to be calming to a child and to lower cortisol levels in the brain which allows a child to focus better and momentarily increases their IQ?  Well it's true.  Full sugar bubble gum (sugarless gum doesn't have the same effect) actually can be very beneficial to our kids.

Something that really impacted me during this training time was the realization that God is answering my prayers from years and years ago to see the local church active and responding to the orphans in their own backyard.  Friends - if you've been praying for this for years - know that God is moving heavily in the local churches here in Monterrey.  Back2Back has tons of local churches partnering with us to be a positive presence in the orphanages where we serve.

At the end of the training, there was a time for the participants to work through examples of bad behavior they've seen the kids display.  Afterwards they acted out in groups ways to appropriately respond to the child by connecting to the child and ways that adults often respond or try to discipline inappropriately with disconnecting responses.

As the volunteers acted out their skits, which displayed how much they had grasped from our training day, they kept referring to "Back2Back" with statements like "here comes Back2Back, we have to get ready for their visit."  I was blown away with the realization that not only is Back2Back here in Monterrey:
1. our full time staff
2. our visiting american mission teams

but now it's also
3. our impressive, unpaid, consistent local volunteers

When they referred to "Back2Back," they weren't referring to our staff or our mission teams - which honestly is how I view "Back2Back."  They were referring to themselves - the volunteers who represent our ministry.  It was a third part of B2B that I hadn't quite registered in my mind.

acting out their skits of dealing appropriately with misbehavior

These volunteers are making the difference for many of the kids we work with.  They are providing weekly reading and math skills classes.  They are mentoring kids and teens in the Hope Program.  They are discipling the kids we work with through weekly Bible classes.

It's incredible.  And it was a privilege to try to equip them for their work with the kids.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

And then He picks up the pieces

It's been over 6 months since I moved out of the orphanage where I used to live with my 10 little (or not so little anymore) pre-teens.  I figured it is ABOUT TIME that I updated the world on how I'm doing, where I'm at, what I'm doing, etc.  So here goes...

I feel like a completely different person than who I was 6 months ago.  God has truly been hard at work to restore my heart, my passion, my vision and hope.  This fall was a really difficult time for me personally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and vocationally. I basically had everything that I held dear to me stripped away in the blink of an eye 6 months ago and it's been a long road to climb out of the pit that I found myself in.  But I can honestly say - it was worth it.  I'd do it all over again if given the chance.  And I'm grateful for the prayers and support of so many of you over the past few months.  Any process of refinement, I'm learning, requires the removing or burning away of some parts to leave a more polished finished product. I believe, from experience, that this process is often very painful.  I found that as I fixed my eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith as I endured trials and really difficult circumstances - God was able to use it to make my faith more mature and more complete.  

A passage that really encouraged me during this time was John 15:1-2. I've always thought this passage to mean that whatever or whomever doesn't produce fruit will just be cut off and disregarded.  That's not what this passage is saying.  It says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He lifts up, washes off, props up EVERY branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he cleans so that it will be more fruitful."  We all get a little muddy from time to time. Who among us doesn't get covered with our own sin, mistakes, pain, lack of vision, etc and just can't stand up anymore?  When we get to that point - when we can't stand up - the Bible says that God himself will lift us up and wash us off and prop us up so that we can bear good fruit.  That is the gospel.  And that is just beautiful.

So in summary, I feel restored, renewed, revived and refreshed. Praise God!

I still live in Monterrey and I still work full time for Back2Back. 

I have several roles here that I'm pretty stoked to be a part of...

For the past 6 years, I've led the charge of B2B's child sponsorship program at Casa Hogar Douglas (where I used to live) and continue to do so today.  I love getting to celebrate each kid's individual birthday and help sponsors connect to their child.

Every now and then, I help out when Back2Back mission teams visit Casa Hogar Douglas.  A few weeks ago, I got to help pour a concrete roof, which is a real treat for me as I love concrete work.  I also had the privilege of helping some ladies do an extreme home makeover of sorts of one of the boys' dorms - we removed all the mold that tried to make its home inside the the bedroom of 9 teenage boys.  Mold lost. We won.

The most exciting however is the team that I get to work with to train and equip caregivers in the children's homes to provide trauma competent care to the orphans we serve.  This effort is very near and dear to my heart because I know firsthand what it's like to be a full time caregiver in a Mexican orphanage.  These caregivers need love, support, encouragement, hope, ideas, understanding, and practical applications of best practices in dealing with very difficult kids.  We are revising existing training programs and approaches to try to best share what we've learned with the caregivers here in Monterrey.  Some of this is done in more formal classroom settings and other times it's more personal - one on one with caregivers.  What is just so cool is that I now have the opportunity to honor the lessons my boys taught me through their past trauma, behavioral outbursts and difficulties by sharing that experience with others – Back2Back staff, children’s home directors and caregivers.  I want to give life to caregivers in my interactions, conversations, and trainings.  Pray for us to be life givers.

So there you have it.  I'm alive and well.  God is good even when everything falls apart because He is a God who picks up the pieces.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sometimes... it all falls apart

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I’ve had a lot to say but haven’t felt like I had the freedom to be honest with myself, supporters, co-workers or the on-looking world in general.

For reasons that are beyond me, I have gotten the impression over the years that support raising missionaries are supposed to share only the “good” stuff.  You know all the stuff that is uplifting, inspiring and leaves the reader/supporter feeling encouraged.  So when things fall apart, what am I supposed to say?  I haven’t had a clue other than what I know to be the truth. Since the truth rips my heart out just thinking about it – I haven’t attempted to make it sound “pretty.” I haven't honestly felt strong enough to even try. Thus, I’ve gone silent on here.

Truth is, I’ve been going through a lot of raw, uncontrolled, rip your heart out, take your breath away, can’t sleep at night, don’t feel like eating, words can’t express grief.

I’ve gone from complete and total shock to numb to angry to blaming the world.  And I’ve cycled through that and bounced around those phases for months now.

I wish I could say that everything is fine, I feel no other emotion than the joy of the lord, I’ve forgiven everyone involved, I see all the why’s to why all this happened, I’ve learned major life lessons and am now all the wiser.  But truth is – most days I am trying to just not cry uncontrollably when I go through my daily routine and EVERYTHING reminds me of my children – breakfast cereal, doing the dishes, toothpaste, ESPN, my favorite chips, laundry, bedtime, any Mom with her children on the street, mopping my house, driving by their soccer fields, etc.  Some days, I struggle to get out of bed in the morning or walk out of my house at all.

So what happened?  Good question.  Details are messy and in my mind kind of complicated.

Bottom line… 84 days ago, I lost my 10 boys.  I’m not their caregiver anymore. I was told to move out of the orphanage.  They now live in other dorms with other people.

Why? How? When?  Yeah all of that doesn’t really matter.  Sure my head wrestles with all of those messy details to try to make sense out of everything.  But I don’t think the heart dwells or cares too much about such details.  All mine knows these days is loss.  Deep loss.  As many of you gathered, I loved and still love each of those boys as if they were my own.  I have to remind myself that they aren’t dead – or that it’s like when a kid moves on to go to college.  I don’t get to tuck Victor, Kevin, Gustavo, Cesareo, JD, Israel, Jose Antonio, Angel, Arturo or Willy into their beds at night.  I don’t get to tell them multiple times a day that I think they are awesome, smart, handsome, worth something and valuable to me and image bearers of the God Almighty who is obsessed with each of them more than they could ever imagine. 

So there you have it –  I’m sad, confused, struggling and trying to put one foot in front of the other in a direction of something healthy and God honoring.  In fact, this post comes from the back patio of a residential Christian counseling center that I’m calling home this month.

Bible says that each of our days were ordained by God before any of them came to be – seems like it was ordained long ago for me to attend the “classroom of grief and loss.”  If a classroom can then give a pass or fail grade (good thing for us that grades end when you graduate college right?) – I really hope that I’d “pass” this one.  I tend to think that passing something like this means that when all is said and done – I have passed if I treasure God above all else.

I covet your prayers for healing, wisdom and guidance for myself and prayers for my beautiful boys as they each have their own list of ongoing emotional, spiritual and physical needs. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hall of Fame

The longer I've had to get to know my boys - their gifts, talents, interests and what just makes them unique - the more I've started to dream of who they can grow up to be one day.  I dream of the kind of men they'll be.  I dream of what kind of fathers and husbands they'll be.  I dream of what they might study one day and what careers could define their adulthood.

Parents, I'm convinced, like to think that their own children are the most handsome, smartest, most talented and funniest children to have ever walked the Earth.  We brag about them all day long to our friends, co-workers and we put their precious faces all over social media don't we?  Why?  Because we are obsessed with them.

I am absolutely no exception to any of that - just my kids aren't mine.  My kids live in an orphanage.  My boys have lived at the same orphanage for the past 7, 8, 12 years and my oldest kid is 13 years old.
I hope and pray that my boys grow up to be men of integrity, passion, service and live lives full of joy.  I pray that they don't repeat the cycle of following in the footsteps of the generation before them who after leaving the orphanage, abandon their own children at the same orphanage just a few years later. I pray that they have a family one day and I pray that they can hold down a job.  I pray that they can make a living doing something that they love, using their unique gifts and talents to not only feed their family but to glorify their Maker.

I pray that nothing holds them back - not their friends, street gangs, poverty, unwanted pregnancy, or selfish desires.  I pray that my boys can study something useful for their future.

Parents try to give their kids every single tool imaginable for what challenges life might throw at them - so that they are ready and equipped.  I tried to teach my kids the importance of their education and the ability to read.  And you better believe that I am so proud of each and every one of them.  More than anything though - I'm proud of how proud they are of themselves when they see what they've accomplished.

Check out the chapter books my boys have read.  Due to privacy laws in this state, I can't post the pictures of their beautiful smiling faces but you can use your imagination.

you can be the greatest, you can move a mountain

you can be a master, don't wait for luck
dedicate yourself and you can find yourself standing in the hall of fame

you can go the distance, you can run the mile
how are you ever going to know, if you never even try?

be a champion, be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers

This story, the story of their lives, is no where near over.  In fact, this is just the beginning.  God knows the plans that He has for them... plans for a hope, plans for a future...

Friday, July 4, 2014


Today my foster son told me, "Caroline everyone says that I'm not good at anything.  They say that I'm good for nothing but look at my plants.  I'm actually good at plants.  People see my plants and they say that I'm good at plants.  They are surprised that I'm good at something." 

Daily I have conversations with this same child about his identity.  His self confidence is smaller than most of the seeds in his seed packets.  He doesn't believe that he is handsome or smart or funny or good at school or able to behave well.  Before he asks me for something, he tells me the negative response he anticipates me to respond with.  He often refuses photos to be taken of him because he feels ugly.  He has a huge complex about how short he is - his growth has been stunted due to stress in his little body from everything that life has thrown his way.

The other day he and I were running an errand in Sammy's car and I told him that I really like him and that I just love being with him.  And he looked at me like I was insane and asked, "why do you like me?!"  I told him, "I like you because you are smart, handsome, really funny, and completely unashamed to have your own preferences unlike other kids who only say they like something because they think it will make them cool in the eyes of others.  You on the other hand know what you like and are unique.  I love that about you."

My little man has a green thumb.  I'd actually say that he loves plants and growing things so much that he has 2 green thumbs.  He loves to rip plants out of the ground (like cactuses around the field) and put them into plastic bottles and make them "his."  He did this for months.  He has taken raw beans from the dining hall and turned them into plants in my bedroom.  His Back2Back Child Sponsor got involved and sent him plant kits.  Last week a Back2Back team was serving at this orphanage all week and they brought him something like 20 packets of seeds so I took him to buy some dirt and we now have a huge garden out back behind our dorm.

At bedtime most nights as I tuck him into bed, after our bedtime prayer, I tell him what I dream for his future.  I tell him all about the garden center he could own and operate one day and we talk about what that would be like.

As much as it pains my heart to hear him say things like "I'm not good at anything but I'm good at plants," I know that this is just the beginning.  My little man's story is far from over and God is using plants to show him that he is good at something.  

I think we all need reminders sometimes that we are valuable.  Who we are and who we believe that we are makes all the difference. 1 Peter 2:9-10 tells us, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out the darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 

Friday, June 20, 2014


For several months now, I've been reading and re-reading this passage in Ephesians 6 about the kind of defense we need to take up against Satan.  

When things are easy and going our way - we often forget that we need to be strong in the Lord and not in our own strength or power.  In ease, I think it's easy to put your guard down. 

But when your guard is down that's when you are most susceptible to attack.  And 1 Peter 5 tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for his next victim.

Ephesians 6 - The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

We don't battle against all the junk and sin that we see play out in front of our earthly eyes - we battle against Satan.  

So let's do some battle.  Pray for us.  Pray for our boys.  Pray for Back2Back.  Pray for us to be strong in the Lord and to claim His victories for the orphans He's called us to defend.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Guilty as charged

I'm learning that sometimes moms make mistakes with their kids.  This week, I have 9 kids.  And if you asked each of my 9 boys when was a time when Caroline royally messed up this week - I'm sure they could each start rattling off examples.  Bottom line - I'm so not perfect.  But as a mom - when you lose your cool with one of your kids - don't you feel horrible?  Don't you feel guilty? I know I sure do.  It leaves a pit in my stomach until I make it right with each of my boys - asking them for forgiveness and telling them that I was wrong.

This past week, I messed up with Arturo on Tuesday, Gustavo on Wednesday and Kevin on Thursday.

I hate messing up.  I felt horrible.

Today I was sitting with a boy who doesn't currently live with me (same orphanage just lives in a different dorm) and he told me that he's been behaving really badly lately.  I told him that everyone messes up.  I told him all about my week and all the times I was wrong this week.  Then I touched his little brown face and said, "buddy I want you to know something really important.  No matter what you've done - God loves you so much and He'll never stop loving you.  When he made you, I'm sure he sat back and said that you were the most beautiful little boy ever created.  Don't you ever forget that no matter how much you screw up, your identity in the eyes of your creator is the most important opinion of all.  He is wild about you and loves you more than you could ever know - even when you are misbehaving."

Why is that SO MUCH easier to say to a child that isn't my child?  Why is that so hard to say to my own children when they are being bad?!

Well this boy just lit up when he heard all that about how much God loves him regardless of how many mistakes he's made.  Sweet boy proceeded to tell others my same message.  Why?  Because it's awesome that's why!

God doesn't only love perfect people.  God loves the mess, the whore, the liar, the cheat, the murderer, the thief, the drunk.... God is love.  In fact, God came down into our chaos to rescue us.  He wants to meet you right where you are and have a relationship with you.  He's crazy about you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


John 10:10 says that, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

This verse deeply touched my soul tonight.

Our enemy Satan only desires to steal, kill and destroy.  He destroys peace within families.  And then he destroys the family. 

For my boys – this could not be more evident in their lives.  The enemy has destroyed their families. 

But Jesus Christ came to give us life and to give us life to the full.  Jesus Christ comes to heal our wounds, bind up our broken hearts and restore peace to broken families. 

My boys and their families need the light of Jesus Christ to restore to them what has been lost for a long, long time – many for generations.   You see, a lot of my boys have moms or a dad or an aunt or a grandma but none of them are emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to take care of these precious children.  The same family members who were supposed to be loving and raising these children have neglected them, abandoned them, watched while others abused them, ignored them and hurt them.  It’s all too easy to place judgment on the mom who visits her kids one Sunday per month but the truth is – a lot of these moms grew up in orphanages themselves.  They are just as broken, bruised and battered as my boys – only difference is that they are all “grown up” and have reproduced. 

The only way any of this can change is through the light of Christ. 
I need Christ.
My boys need Christ.
Their families need Christ.

And when anyone encounters the living God… that’s when lives change. 

Would you join me in praying for my boys’ families to be restored to a life of abundance in Christ?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Healthy Outlets

           One of my boys (all really but one in particular) is very angry and hyperactive.  In meetings with his teachers and principals this year, I have said that I fear he’ll end up beating his wife someday or in jail because of how unbelievably angry he is. He recently had to change elementary schools because of his extreme outbursts of unfavorable behavior.  Several months ago, as an outlet for my own personal frustrations, I started running again after years of inactivity.   I’m addicted to it all over again, feeling healthier, have more energy and I look forward to it daily.  I wanted the same type of outlet for one of my “foster sons” of sorts (you don’t hear caregivers in an orphanage setting refer to their kids as “foster sons” but they feel like mine so I’ll use the term) so I invited him to go running with me one morning.  He loved it. Running releases lots of endorphins and apparently can have the same effects as an anti-depressant.  His behavior and sleep have improved as well as my relationship with him.  

For several weeks, I only brought him running with me – we’d go for about 2 to 3 miles each time.  But this past week, I decided to run long laps with about 7 of the kids from Douglas who have been begging me to let them run with me just so I could see who could potentially hit the streets running with me and keep up.  We ran for about 24 minutes and half the kids gave up early on – others stuck with it. I shouldn’t have been surprised at what I found but honestly I was….. one of my boys – my smallest little man who is a ball of well… I’ll describe him as a "miniature pit bull" of sorts --- can run for miles without getting tired.   He has more energy than any child I’ve ever met.  I should have thought of this a long, long time ago. Today as we were running through the neighborhood he kept yelling, “Caroline I love running.  I love running like this!”  Today he convinced a white pit bull off the street to follow us all the way back to the children’s home from 1.5 miles out – the dog racing back and forth with him, following us.

I want my boys to not just enjoy getting their energy out so they can sleep better in the immediate but I want them to develop healthy habits for life – to have an outlet years from now that they can turn to when they feel frustrated or angry.   Sometimes I honestly wonder if they are learning anything from me of value.  I often ask myself if I'm doing anything right with them…  I wonder what will stick years from now out of all the things I've tried to teach them.  Long distance running is something that I think is hard to let go of once you know how awesome it makes you feel.  I started running miles and miles on the streets of Cocoa Beach everyday when I was 12 years old and all these years later – it’s still something I enjoy and know helps me manage my stress and anxiety.  After my first run with one of my kids, I realized that maybe, for once, I could be confident that I was doing something right. 

For now, you can find me and several of my boys running the streets in the early mornings or just before dark (gotta beat the 100 degree Monterrey heat).  But years from now, I hope my boys choose to run out their anger instead of taking it out on those around them.