Miracle Morales

Between Leo’s accident, a rough pregnancy, and the exhaustion of the first year of being parents, I feel like I’ve lost the last 2 years of my life.  Lol! I also realized that I hadn’t written out the story of our miracle.

It’s long, but worth the read!  Even as I’m typing this out, it isn’t lost on me that some of the characters in this story were people God used to bring other seasons of my life full-circle in HIS story of redemption.

For those of you who have known us for a while, you know that I had quite a few years when I struggled with my health.  As soon as we were married, we took the “we’ll trust God” approach with growing our family, and didn’t really use any measures to prevent it from happening.

After a while, we knew something was wrong.

After finally seeing a fertility specialist here once we go to the States, we got some heartbreaking news:  I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant.  He said “we could pump you full of hormones and try, but if I were you, I’d think about just saving my money.”  We were determined to do something, but the day I went in for another check-up, the doctor found yet another cyst on my ovaries and said that there was nothing he could do.

That was in 2014, right around when we got Canela.

Our marriage had been through some hard times before, but nothing like that year.  I felt so guilty, so ashamed, so sorry that Leo had married me.  I knew he would be an amazing dad, and I felt like I was holding him back from something he was made to do.

We had to take an honest look at each other and ask 

“Am I enough for you?”

“Are we enough for each other?”

“If it is just the two of us for the rest of our lives, will we be ok?”

We had to die to the idea of being parents. 

Sidenote: Yes, adoption is an option for most couples, but this is before Leo was able to become a citizen, and we knew we weren’t in the place to even try to adopt or foster. 

 

Fast forward 2 years to the accident.  Leo had taken a brave step to quit his job so he could focus on his ministry and music full-time, and 2 days later falls and shatters his elbow.

Our dog was about to have puppies.

It was crazy!

As people were coming over to our house to pray for Leo’s healing, a few of them bluntly said

“I feel like Jesus not only wants to heal Leo, but wants to heal you, too”. 

Not just one person… but a few!

*I have had MANY people pray for me over the years… hands on my belly, crying out to Jesus kinds of prayers… “seeing- us-with-a-crib” kind of prayers… and I had honestly not really put any stock in prayers for a baby for a LONG time… but this time was different.

Leo’s mom had come to visit and celebrate Leo’s citizenship ceremony with us, and in the stress of it all, I went off the rails with my diet.  (I had completely changed my eating habits after the news of our infertility to try to help keep my hormones balanced).  I had another bout with a cyst and anemia that about took me down for a while.  The worst days of bleeding, I was in a dear friend’s wedding, or else I would’ve gone to the hospital.

It didn’t feel like God had heard any of the prayers that I was finally willing to let others pray.

In desperation, I found a Groupon for acupuncture.  I was willing to try anything to get my hormones and cycle back on track. And, just as God would have it, the precious acupuncturist is a Chinese Christian who goes to Vineyard!  She spoke life over my body, almost prophesying as I laid there on her table for 6 sessions over the few weeks.  My period finally stopped.  I was so grateful!

I had also made an appointment at my OB’s office to see if they could figure out what was going on.  I remember going in, and having the ultrasound tech look at everything.  I hadn’t seen my ovaries since the fertility doc, and all I remember then was seeing the cyst.  This time was different, however.  This time, instead of cysts, my ovaries were full of follicles.  I mean, I had never seen that with all the different ultrasounds over the years!  The tech said

“I don’t know… everything looks perfectly healthy and normal.” 

I laughed.  I had never heard that before!

In that moment, I felt the Lord say “Get ready!”. 

The following week, we were having a worship and healing night at our church.  I always stand towards the back of the sanctuary, just hanging back and watching what Jesus is doing.  Leo was running sound that night, so I just sat in my own little section of chairs on the main floor in the back.

I remember seeing a precious Indian family up in the next section.  During the ministry time, I walked over and offered to pray for them.  They were grateful, and Jesus really moved!  After I was done, the woman looked at me and said

“While we were worshipping, I saw you in the corner.  The Lord told me that you were going to come pray for me, and that I need to pray for you to have a baby.”

Uh… what?!  Ok.

She went on to say “Do you mind if I pray for you in my native language?”

She poured out her heart to God on my behalf for what seemed like 30 minutes.  It was beautiful.  I felt something break off of me, and there was so much peace!

2 days later we left for Colombia for a month.

We got back from our vacation, and while Leo was leading worship at church, I was home.  I decided to take a pregnancy test, since I hadn’t had my period since the bleeding episode almost 2 months before.

It was positive.

I can’t tell you how many tests I’ve taken.

This was the first one that was ever positive.

I was sitting in the bathroom, shaking.  I doubted the test.  I took another one.  Positive.  I thought that maybe it was just that brand, so I took another one that used words instead of symbols.

“Pregnant”

I cried.  I debated calling my best friend, but decided that I should wait to tell Leo first.

But how?

On one of our more hopeful trips to Colombia, we had purchased a baby-sized Colombian soccer jersey.  We kept it out until I couldn’t look at it anymore, and I buried it in a dresser drawer.

It took a while to remember, but I found the little jersey, and wrapped the pregnancy tests up in it. 

When Leo got home, I presented it to him.

“What is this?” He asked?

“I think we’re going to have a baby!” I cried.

We laughed and cried all night!

The next day was Friday, and I called the OB’s office to schedule a blood test and another ultrasound.

They were able to get me in right away for the blood test, and confirmed that I was, indeed, pregnant.

We saw my parents that weekend, for the first time since we had been back from Colombia.

My mom pulled me aside and asked

“Honey, were you in a place where you could foster or adopt any kids?”

“No, why?” I replied

“I had an incredible, tangible experience with the Lord, where I felt Him tell me that you were going to meet your child in Colombia.” 

Silence…
Because of all the pain we’d experienced, we didn’t really include our parents in any of our infertility journey… we didn’t want to cause them pain as well… and we had lost  previous pregnancies (that we found out about after the fact) that we also hadn’t included them in on, so I wasn’t really ready to share. 

So, I just kept sipping my water, and without looking at my mom said

“Nope, we weren’t doing any ministry with kids this time.”

She slowly replied “That is so weird.  It was such an intense experience, and I just prayed for you everyday you were there.”

“Huh”.

When we had the ultrasound that following week and heard the little heartbeat, we called both sets of parents to share the news and to ask for prayer.

I told my mom “We didn’t meet our baby in Colombia, but it looks like we made it there.”

Our little miracle baby was “made in Colombia” and due on the 4th of July.

Already showing his bi-cultural side!16177700_10158168584320215_2479383839146418530_o

 

 

 

 

 

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Canela the Wonderdog… 4 years ago this week!

Leo’s family came to visit us for a month in 2014, our 2nd Christmas in the US… and when a Colombian family comes to visit, they ALL come!  We had 12 people in our 3-bedroom, 1 bathroom house… and it was incredible to share our lives with them, in our very own home!

When they left, however, the house felt VERY empty!  So, we decided to bring home my old beagle Taffy.  She had spent the better part of the last 8 years out at my parent’s farm with a dear bassett hound; but with the winter being SO cold, my parents thought she would enjoy the warmth and comfort of our house.  She was completely deaf, missing all her front teeth, and almost completely blind.  Her tail still wagged when she saw us, though… and she was as treat-driven as ever!

We had a wonderful 5 months with her, but during that time her health greatly deteriorated.  We took her to the vet to see why she was having so many bladder problems, and they found a massive tumor in her bladder.  We needed to set a date to put her down.

It was one of the hardest things we’d ever done to that point! We would come home to find her asleep in her bed next to our bed, just praying that she had died in her sleep… but she kept holding on.  I still remember the day we took her in.  We spent the morning at Alum Creek beach, one of her favorite places.  We let her off the leash (it’s not like she could run very far anyway…) and took some beautiful pictures during our last precious moments together.

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She is buried on the farm under her favorite tree.

2 days later, Leo and I left for Colombia to spend 2 weeks with his family and our dear friends.

Coming home to an empty house was devastating!

We had decided that maybe we could get another pet… but definitely NOT a puppy… they’re too much work!  Before going to bed on June 19th, we decided on getting chickens, believe it or not!

However, after Leo left for work the next morning, I was perusing different animal sites, and came across the most beautiful beagle pup with green eyes. I knew she HAD to be ours!  However, I didn’t know how Leo would feel about it.  So, I decided to just ask him if I could borrow the debit card so I could get some cash to buy him a surprise.  With Colombia playing against Greece in the World Cup that day, Leo thought I was getting him a big Colombian flag or something.

As he drove up to the house, he saw us playing in the front yard.  Her little white-tipped tail was bobbing around as we got to know each other.  He says that in that moment, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Thus began our adventure with Canela (the word for cinnamon in Spanish).  She has brought us so much joy, laughter, frustration and pictures!  She only speaks Spanish (because that’s mainly what we speak in our home), and my piano and voice students get the biggest kick out of learning how to say “sientate” (sit) or “quieta” (stay).

Who knew our joy would just be multiplied when we bred her just 2 years ago.  We honestly didn’t think we could ever have kids, so we thought “Canela needs a buddy”.  Well, now we have our hearts AND hands full!

Anyway…

Enjoy some pics!!! 🙂

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Where’s Canela?
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Come on mom… play!
Canela the wonderdog!
Seriously?!?! Rawhide on my computer. That’s one way to get me up!

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So stinkin' cute!
So stinkin’ cute!

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Death and Orchids

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After breaking up with a long-time college relationship, I was talking with my best friend Jill about how I just don’t seem to be able to pick “the right guy”.  She agreed that she also struggled with this!

During our conversation, we talked about a friend of ours who made a plan with her dad.  They agreed on a specific gift that the father would give a guy when he asked for her hand in marriage.  If the father approved of the guy, he would give him this gift to give to his daughter when he proposed.  Jill and I both loved that story, but the reality that both of our dads were out of state, and not really around to give counsel/see the guy in more than just a “dad-pleasing” mode made us think of another way it could work.

We both prayed about it, and asked our Heavenly Dad to put an idea in our heads of something that He would impress on the heart of the “right guy” to give us when he proposed.  For her, the image of purple roses came to mind.  For me, it was orchids.

Now, neither of us really thought that it could really be the Father putting this on our minds, so we didn’t really put much stock in the images, but we definitely held onto those ideas!

And, it even turned out that when Jill’s now-husband proposed to her, he gave her purple roses, not knowing anything about the simple prayer that she had prayed years before!

Fast forward a few years to when I was in full-time ministry… When I lived out of my car traveling the US, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a youth pastor in Springfield, MO.  He had just gotten back from a mission trip to China that had changed his life.  He talked about how passionate the Chinese Christians were to share Jesus… and how they were willing to pay a price for the Gospel.  I remember the drive from Springfield to Tulsa, and asking God what MY price was…. and I remember that the first word that came to my mind was “marriage”.

I had had a rough time in relationships… desperately wanting to be in one, but feeling like I was settling whenever one would present itself.  It was during that 3-hour drive that I surrendered that part of my heart to Jesus and truly died to the idea of ever getting married.  I went from bitter whenever I would see my friends find the love of their lives, to content knowing that I was enough as I was, and that Jesus was enough for me.

I can honestly say that I loved being single and serving Jesus.  I had such an authentic, intimate relationship with Him at that time… so many miles on the road with just the Word, worship cds (yes, before ipods), and my own songs sung out the car window.  It was a really sacred time.

Fast forward to a month before I went to Colombia.  My friends Jake and Bridget organized a prayer/worship night for me as I was about to head out to Colombia.  It was such a great time being with old college friends!  After everyone left, it was just the 3 of us on their couch, and Jake said “Lilia, I feel like the Lord is going to awaken something that He called you to put to death.  I feel strongly that you are going to find your husband in Colombia.”  I laughed out loud!  I honestly hadn’t even been thinking about it… but made some kind of comment about finding a Jesus-loving, dark-haired hippie musician.

Fast forward to the week after I got to Colombia.  The pastor’s family had a kind of death of their own in the family, and people started bringing over beautiful bouquets of flowers, many of them containing orchids.

I asked the pastor’s wife about it, and she said “oh, you didn’t know?  The national flower of Colombia is the orchid”.

In that moment, the Lord confirmed the word that my friend Jake had spoken…

And He answered a prayer that a silly 20-something broken-hearted girl had prayed years before.

Because of immigration issues, Leo wasn’t able to meet my family to officially ask for my hand in marriage, but the day that we were legally married Leo presented me with

a bouquet of orchids.

 

Our Story! :)

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When people meet us, they are always curious about how we met, where we met, etc.  After living in the States for so long now, people just assume that we met here.  But here’s the real story…

I moved to Bogota, Colombia right before New Years in 2007.  I was invited to teach music at an international school, and knowing that a lot of my world would be in English, I asked if it would be possible to live with a Colombian family instead of with the other teachers.  I was placed with a bi-cultural pastor’s family.  We didn’t know anything about each other until I arrived, but we quickly found out that the Lord had indeed put us together!

They invited me to go on a retreat they were leading with a different church my first weekend in country. It was during that trip they discovered that I was a worship leader/speaker, and we had a BLAST ministering together. I learned a TON of songs in Spanish, and was on my way to becoming bilingual (although I had a LOOOOOOONG way to go).

The following weekend, I had been spending time with the English teachers when I got a call from the pastor asking if I would be willing to play the drums for the services the following day.  He said that their worship team had a few different drummers, but that none of them were available.  I immediately agreed and rushed back to their place so he could take me to the church.

I showed up without makeup, in a t-shirt, baggy torn jeans and crocs.  Lol!  (if you know anything about Colombian women, they would NEVER dress like that…).

None of the guys on the worship team spoke English, and, as Leo later told me, upon seeing me they decided to change the set list to translated Hillsong songs instead of their typical latino-flavored songs.

I had a blast!

I think the guys were a little surprised that I could do it.

After the rehearsal, the electric guitarist (Leo) stuck around to wait for the pastor to pick me up.  I literally had no idea how to say anything about music or life at that point… and he didn’t really know how to say anything about life and music to me, either… but somehow, after sharing our names, how old we were and how many siblings we had (thank you Spanish 1), I communicated that I write music.

Leo immediately turned on the keyboard and asked me to sit and play him something.  I started playing “We will praise You” from my Captivated:Live cd, and just as I got to the 2nd verse, Leo stopped me.  He said…

“No. No. No…. Jazz…. colors!” and then proceeded to hum the melody of the song and completely changed the chords to sounds I would never know how to make in a million years.  I cracked up!  I remember thinking “I think this guy and I are going to be good friends!”

The pastor came right about then to walk me home (he lived only a block away from the church).

The following weekend, and the ones that proceeded it, I was a part of the worship team. We had rehearsal on Saturday afternoons, and then 3 services on Sundays.  In between the services, we would all go to the cafe across the street to get something to eat and I would try my best to communicate what I’d been learning.  In addition to the Sunday services, I started helping out with the youth services on Friday nights, and teaching lessons at the worship academy on Saturdays. I LOVED it!

Leo also happened to be involved with all of those church events, so it gave us a good deal of time together, sharing life and ministry.  He was hilarious, and an incredible guitarist/worship leader.  It was so much fun to find someone with similar interests and passions!

He started walking me home more, and the pastor would always invite him to eat dinner with us.  When Leo would get home, he’d sign on to Skype and we would chat (all written) while the pastor’s daughter sat next to me to translate and help me learn what to say back.  It was hilarious.  We were NEVER without a bilingual dictionary!

One day, I was walking with the pastor and asked him what he thought about Leo.  He said “Wow!  What a guy!  He loves Jesus, loves people and is always here serving at the church!  You really can’t find anyone better!”.  But then he went on to say… “But I recommend you wait 2 years before you start to date.  Get to know him better, get to know the language and the culture better… Here, Colombian christians take dating VERY seriously.  You first start out in groups, and then the moment you go out just the 2 of you, it means that you’re serious about each other.  Dating in our church culture means that you’re seriously contemplating marriage.”

I think 2 weeks later, Leo and I were sitting on the steps out in front of the pastor’s house talking about what we really felt called to do. And, it was exactly the same!  It was at that moment when I had the feeling “I think I’m gonna marry this guy!”.

It was during that conversation where Leo said that he wanted to be my “novio”… and out of respect for the pastor, I told Leo that he would have to ask permission from the pastor if he wanted to date me.

Sidenote: it had always been an agreement between my dad and I when I was in high-school that if a guy wanted to date me, he HAD to ask my dad first.  It was a safety-net for me and to this day I am so grateful!  If a guy called the house (you know… in the ancient days before there were cell-phones), my dad would ask me “do you want to go out with this guy?”  If I said “no”, then so did my dad.  I have always encouraged young girls who are starting to date to have this same arrangement with their fathers.  It is SO important for their safety and health to have their dads involved with any boys who have interest in them.

So, Leo and the pastor met and talked one evening.  They were in the living room, and I was in the kitchen cooking (the pastor’s wife was out of town).   I was SO nervous, especially after the pastor had said that it would be better to wait 2 years, and it had only been 2 1/2 months!

But both he and Leo came into the kitchen beaming… the pastor hugged us both and said “you have our prayers, our counsel, and our best wishes!”.

A year and a half after Leo and I met, we were married in Bogota!  We just celebrated our 9th anniversary.

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When you fall, sometimes it takes a village to pick you back up.

The past few months in the Morales house have been a testament to community, faith and the strength that only comes from Jesus.

We didn’t post much of what had been going on, but now that things are finally looking up, I thought I’d share.

May 13th: Leo took a brave and valiant move (after much prayer) and quit his job at Guitar Center in order to focus more on ministry and his business. (shameless plug: http://www.leonardo-morales.com)

May 16th: Leo was working on our basement remodel, fell off of a step-ladder and fractured his right elbow.

May 18th: Our dog, Canela, gave birth to 5 puppies

May 19th: Leo had extensive surgery on his elbow to repair the damage

The rest of May: an absolute blur.

Most of June and July: a blur

August 10th: Leo’s US citizenship ceremony

Now, here we are at the end of August!

We have now called the summer of 2016 “The summer of recovery, citizenship and puppies”.

Here’s the deal:

There is absolutely no way that we would’ve made it through the first 2 weeks, let alone the months afterwards without friends and family.

We’ve had people bring us meals (it didn’t hurt that Canela had such cute puppies to visit/hold), bring us urgent medicine or food, help finish the recording studio, do yard work, organize our basement, and just be emotional/spiritual support all throughout this process.

As Leo walked in for his 3-month appointment, the doctors were astonished.  They have NEVER seen anyone heal so quickly after such an intense fracture.

Leo jokes around that he plays guitar even better now than he did before, and proudly shows his “ironman” picture of the screws that were put in his elbow.  We know we are blessed and fortunate that it turned out this way!

We didn’t post anything about it on Facebook because we didn’t want his family in Colombia to worry.  They were dealing with their own hard situations, and didn’t need to know that Leo was having such a hard time.

But, right before his mom came for his citizenship ceremony, he told her over the phone.  She said she felt that there was something going on, and just prayed for us.

What is amazing to me is that we would’ve probably never had this many conversations with people in our lives without this accident.  Life here in the US is so rushed, so compartmentalized, and so shallow at times.  When people would come over, it seemed that conversations lingered.  Testimonies about hard times were shared, and our faith was strengthened.

When we let people into our mess (and there was a whole lot of it!), we realized that we really weren’t alone.  This world, as much as it feels like it’s “every man for himself”, is much better lived in community… when one falls, we all rally around to pick him/her up off the ground.

We are so grateful!

 

 

I had a moment

This past Sunday, I had a moment…
I was surrounded by middle schoolers in my living room, teaching them some Spanish worship songs for their upcoming trip to the DR. One of the songs that they chose to learn was “No me soltaras”- you never let go by Matt Redman.
I haven’t sung that song in a while, let alone in Spanish.
All of a sudden, I was transported to Casa del Niño, the hospital for kids with cancer in Bogota. I was surrounded by an amazing class of 5th graders who not only sang that song, but acted it out and then prayed for and loved on the other children so well. I could hear their voices singing, see their motions, feel their hearts of hope.
This precious class of 5th graders years ago is now graduating high-school.
The tears were falling on my guitar in my living room, and while I’m sure they noticed, the American kids didn’t say a word… it has been a tough week and they know it.
I had a moment.
The in-between, bitter-sweet feelings of being so grateful to have lived such an amazing season with those precious students; yet so grieved to have missed all of their high-school experience…
and the gratitude that I can continue to use my gifts here in the US, even though my heart so desperately longs to not still be here.
Colombia is no longer my home… the US doesn’t feel like home…
This world is not my home…
It was and will be all just a moment.

Puppies!!!

The day before Leo’s surgery was a Wednesday.  It is the only day I teach outside the home, with 7 neighbor-kids all in a cute suburb.  I asked Leo before I left

“Are you sure you want me to leave you here alone?”

His response: “One of us has to keep working!”.

So, with that, I got in the car and headed towards my first student’s house.  On the way, I called a dear friend from our small group and let her know that Leo would be having surgery the next day, and to just pass the word along to pray.  She suggested that maybe instead of the group meeting at her house, they would all come over to ours to pray, worship and bring us food.  I was so grateful!

I got through my first 2 lessons with no problem, but all of a sudden, during my 3rd lesson, I got a panicked call from Leo.

“Nena!  Canela is having her puppies!”.

What?!?!  Of course… the only day I’m not either at home, or 5 minutes from home.

“Do you want me to come home??” (I had whelped pups before, but Leo’s only experience was watching the YouTube videos in preparation.).

“No, I think I can do it.”

It turns out that Leo also decided not to cancel a guitar lesson, so he put Canela outside while he taught (I would’ve paid money to watch him teach while high on the drugs they gave him… lol!).

When he went to let her in, he couldn’t find her.  She didn’t come running to him like she normally does.  He found her in her favorite spot under our hammock, in a pile of leaves that hadn’t been cleaned up from the winter.  One puppy was already out.

We had a box for her all ready to go in the kitchen, so Leo had to drag it- with his good arm- out to the back patio, reach for the puppy that had already been born, and get Canela in the box.

About every 20 minutes or so, he’d send me another pic or video.  She was such a pro!  He even had time to set up the ipad to record the birth out on the back patio.

I called another friend who loves Canela and really wanted to be there for the birth, and she headed right over to be with them.

Again, I kept asking “Do you need me to come home?”  Leo always answered the same way: “One of us needs to keep working!” So, I kept plugging away at my lessons, finished and got home with just 15 minutes to spare before people started coming over.  Canela birthed the last puppy just as I was walking in the door. It was beautiful.  She did an amazing job!

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I had just a few minutes to clean the kitchen and living room, try to organize space for 12 people, and make sure that Canela was doing well before people started arriving.

It was crazy! (But when, in our lives have things like this never been crazy?).

Worship that night was so beautiful.  We will remember that evening for possibly the rest of our lives.  We were overwhelmed with so many things, and to have our dearest friends over to pray for and encourage us, lifting up the name of Jesus in the middle of our situation… that was priceless!

The puppies were born into a house of worship, and the peace that we all felt was tangible.