Tomorrow is Moving Day

Tomorrow is moving day.

He had the kindest smile and the brightest and biggest brown eyes a little baby could ever have. He happily slept through the night just weeks after appearing in my life. He filled my heart with thanksgiving and praise and brought joy to my existence.

Tomorrow is moving day.

When he was 3, he broke his arm. We rushed him to the hospital and he courageously kept from crying while the doctor manipulated his bones back into place.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In preschool he fell madly in love with a beautiful little girl and he told me he wanted to grow up and marry and have brown babies.

Tomorrow is moving day.

It took him forever to talk. I drove him to speech therapy and celebrated every clear word. His best friend, Mitchell, understood him perfectly well. They had hours and hours of fun with cars, legos, and pretend games. They never argued or fought. They just played.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I taught him to read. He was exhilarated every time he finished a book. The stickers on his chart were an outward expression of the pride and happiness he felt. He was a joy to homeschool.

Tomorrow is moving day.

There were very few things Daniel hated. Among those, are vegetables. He sort of still mostly hates them.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had a girl crush growing up. From kindergarten through high school, he was (and is) a romantic at heart.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Ryan became his buddy. Ryan is now his best man.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for animals was contagious. Nothing like a trip to the zoo or aquarium. He knew the name of every imaginable dinosaur, along with eating habits, time periods, and habitats.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He always had an incredible sense of direction. Lizette and I always relied on him to get us to the right place when we were lost.

Tomorrow is moving day.

I could always count on him when I needed someone to kill a palmetto bug.

Tomorrow is moving day.

The more he grew, the more he resembled his dad, both in looks and personality. Yet, he took after me in this one thing: his love for dancing. He was not shy about hitting the dance floor. His signature move was the worm.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He also loved the spotlight. I guess he gets that from me also (OK, he took after me in a couple of things). He found a love for theater and performing. He loved playing the bishop in Les Mis.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He served in Jamaica a couple of summers. He loved everything about it.

Tomorrow is moving day.

In high school, he fell in love with a long-time friend. Her name is Geneva. They officially became a couple on senior prom night.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has always been and continues to be a very faithful friend.

Tomorrow is moving day.

His love for his family, especially his siblings, moves me deeply. When his sisters call him with a need, he’s willing to help at the drop of a hat. He is committed to Gabriel and I feel peace in knowing that Daniel will never leave him, but will watch over him with great care and love.

Tomorrow is moving day.

“Danieeeeel!” is what you hear at my house any time an electronic device freezes or malfunctions.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Goofy. ‘nough said.

Tomorrow is moving day.

He has become quite a fabulous young man. He is responsible, interesting, tech savvy, fun, engaging, respectful, and faithful.

Tomorrow is moving day.

Geneva has captured his heart and mind. He is a lucky duck. The two will wed in 2 1/2 weeks and ride into the sunset together.

Tomorrow he is leaving father and mother in order to cleave to his beloved.

My heart is full. I am proud, happy, excited, hopeful, as well as sad, nostalgic, and utterly surprised at how quickly time flew by.

 

daniel 4

daniel 6

daniel 10

daniel 40

daniel 39

daniel 38

daniel 36

My Man

Next Monday Juan and I celebrate 30 years of marriage! I can hardly believe it. So it seems appropriate to dedicate this next post in myΒ Tributes series to my man.

I could write a book about Juan, thirty years’ worth! But I will simply honor him for the single most important quality that makes him the man he is. This characteristic caused me to fall deeply in love with him when I first met him, and it is still the strongest draw I feel towards him even today. Juan has matured and changed during the course of our marriage, but this single trait has endured and remained constant throughout. I am so very grateful for this.

Juan’s deep and unwavering love for God is his most attractive quality.

It was probably during our third or fourth date that Juan and I sat side by side to journal our prayers to God. He kept a notebook where he would pen longings, dreams, desires, and fears, while pouring out his heart to the Lord. I loved, loved, loved this about him. Today, I still get up in the morning to find him doing the same thing. Another page in another notebook. Another prayer. Another verse. Another breath of hope and comfort as he fellowships with the Spirit. I love, love, love this about him.

Throughout the many trials and suffering we have lived through as individuals, as a couple, or as a family, Juan has never second guessed the goodness and far-reaching love of the Father. While I have questioned God’s purposes, presence, or care, Juan has remained steadfast in his belief in the sovereignty and love of God, without question or hesitation. In the loss of a job, the frightening prognosis of health, the rebellion of a child, or the experience of depression, his default has always been to run towards the light of God, never from it. In desperate times, Juan has kept me steady, directing me to find hope in the right source.

Juan has had an unshakable love for me and our children. In spite of the fact that in our human frailty, we have misunderstood and hurt each other, his love for God has prevailed in all and through all, moving him to forgive, repent, display grace, and move forward. He is filled with incredible hope and optimism, not because he looks at people or circumstances, but because he fixes his eyes on Scripture.

Juan has been a firm rock and a steady source of security for me, for 30 years. I am looking forward to continue to love him and be loved by him for the next 30. I count myself blessed by God for giving him to me.

 

My New Daughter

Children are a blessing; a gift. You birth them, raise them, and watch them grow into adulthood. Then they leave and you feel as if you were losing them. It’s tough. But then new people are added to your life. Your children get married, and so you are blessed, yet again, with the further growth of your family. Your kids’ spouses become your own children. It feels right.

I raised 4 children. I’m gaining a fifth one: Geneva Rose McGee. Even though she has not married my son yet, and there are still 217 days until the wedding (but who’s counting), she has already become a living, active, and energetic part of our Ledon clan. After a three year long-distance relationship with Daniel, she finally relocated to VA, and it didn’t take long for her to fit right into our lifestyle, schedule, habits, and goals. Effortless.

Geneva is a pretty fantastic person. Steve and Adanna should be very proud of the woman she has become. She respects her parents and loves her family. She reveres God, is driven by lofty values, and relentlessly pursues her goals. Β She is intuitive, smart, disciplined, organized, responsible, and kind. She not only loves Daniel, but our entire family as well. She works with Gabriel with great dedication and commitment, she has fun with us, and she serves and helps in whatever way she can. Like a cherry on top, she sings beautifully and has a passion for worship. Can she be a greater match for our family?

I do not know what the future holds for Daniel and Geneva. Whether they remain in town or are employed elsewhere, I feel joy and contentment in realizing that my son has found a good wife, and I have gained another daughter. I am truly blessed.

Engagement Day :)

Engagement Day πŸ™‚

I was congratulating Geneva on her engagement to Daniel. Her mom, Adanna in the background.

I was congratulating Geneva on her engagement to Daniel. Her mom, Adanna in the background.

Daniel and Geneva with Juan and I. Happy day :)

Daniel and Geneva with Juan and I. Happy day πŸ™‚

Geneva's last visit to VA (before she moved)

Geneva’s last visit to VA (before she moved)

Siblings <3

Siblings ❀

Christmas Eve! Typical Geneva laugh :)

Christmas Eve! Typical Geneva laugh πŸ™‚ Elise photobombing and Tita very amused.

Her new job as Gabriel's caretaker. He is very excited to hang out with Geneva!

Her new job as Gabriel’s caretaker. He is very excited to hang out with Geneva!

To read other posts in my “Living Tributes” series, click here.

Billy!

Juan and I were having a conversation yesterday. Billy McKillop’s name came up and my immediate response was “He is one of my favorite people in the world!”, to which Juan answered, “Mine too!”

This is my 6th entry in the Tribute series, and I’m so glad to dedicate it to this awesome person, my friend Billy.

I know Billy from my days at Pinelands Presbyterian Church, in Miami. When Juan and I first started attending that church, we came in as a couple in great need of support and spiritual strength. Billy, more than likely, does not know how big of an impact his life and leadership was for us. In all our years in ministry we had never met a person quite like him. He showed us what true humility looked like. He demonstrated real love for people and a genuine concern for their souls and well being. Billy was not boisterous nor seeking accolades, but he served quietly and wholeheartedly. I remember many days when God’s grace surprised me through Billy’s life. All I had to do was watch him at work or have a conversation with him, and I would often learn something new about compassion and evangelism. I had not fully understood how God’s grace could be so evidently displayed in leadership, until I met Billy McKillop. I am so grateful for the work God did in my heart through him.

Billy has a sweet, thoughtful, and supportive wife by his side, and together they have raised three passionate and loving children. The McKillop family has served in ministry both in local churches and abroad. Wherever they go, they display God’s goodness for all to see. Their commitment to the expansion of God’s kingdom is evident in their life choices. Many have come to the knowledge of the gospel through their labor of love. Thank you Billy, Sherry, Caleb, Zachary, and Gabrielle, for your service to the Lord. I am one of those people whose life has been deeply enriched by yours.

After Billy's installation service at New City Fellowship (Billy and Sherry are second and third from the left)

After Billy’s installation service at New City Fellowship (Billy and Sherry are third and fourth from the left)

My Little Brother

This is entry No. 5 from the Tributes series, Father’s Day Edition.

It is 7:00 PM on Father’s Day. We’ve had a nice day celebrating as a family. Now, Juan is taking a nap and the kids are hanging out at the coffee shop, and all I’m burdened to do is write about this incredible man: my little brother.

As children, we were very distinct and independent. We enjoyed different things; we processed information differently; we dealt with life issues differently. We were not the closest of siblings, but were not indifferent to each other either. I loved playing my guitar and singing, while he spent hours on end flying pretend airplanes. I stayed indoors and played board games by myself while he preferred riding his bike with his friends. We grew apart during our teenage years, especially as I moved out of our home, came to the States, and enrolled in college. Not too long after that I was a married woman while he was in high school, and our priorities and paths of life looked drastically different. But I loved him deeply and he loved me.

I am so delighted to see the adult my brother has become. My heart beams with pride, for he is truly an amazing person. When we moved to the United States (he came a year after I did), we had nothing. My parents had lost their business and we had no possessions or money. My brother arrived in Florida knowing very little English and signed up in a public high school. It was a sink or swim type of situation. And he swam. He really, really swam. He got a job as a busboy and later became a very good server. He waited tables while attending college. He worked hard, saved money, and became very business savvy. He graduated, bought a house, got married, and had beautiful babies. He is now a very successful executive and works extremely hard for the good of his family. He is determined, hard-working, ambitious, and steadfast. I admire these qualities in him.

My brother loves his family. He is a committed husband and father, not only wishing their well being, but working hard to attain it. He values time with them, he knows their struggles, he helps them the best way he can, and he would unreservedly lay down his life for his wife and his kids, if necessary. Carla is an amazing woman and his children are fabulous humans; a testament to the love and dedication he has for them. He is also a good, faithful, and fun-loving friend. He continues friendships he started when he was a child, and his friends know they can count on him if they need him.

Peter is the most competitive person I know. He hates to lose. I am competitive as well, so our card or board games can get pretty heated and often times highly entertaining. But aside from the desire to win in trivial activities, my brother possesses an un-quenching desire to do things well and fully. He likes to live life to the fullest and with no regrets.

I love my brother and I know he loves me. If and when I’m in trouble, I want him by my side, because he has my back. Even though our lives have looked and felt very differently for many years, I know that age, experiences, and relationships have unified our priorities and goals in life. Despite our heated games and conversations (which we are learning to laugh at more and more), the truth is that I love spending time with him and his beautiful family. The single, hardest part, for me, about moving to VA, has been missing spending time with him and the Vargas clan.

Thank you, God, for giving me my brother. It is truly a gift from you.

Wasn't he a total cutie?

Wasn’t he a total cutie?

Oh his plane, with Lizette in the back seat

Oh his plane, with Lizette in the back seat

A die hard Ecuadorian fan

A die hard Ecuadorian fan

Clearly he won and Juan lost

Clearly he won and Juan lost

Partying

Partying

The clan at Jamestown

The clan at Jamestown

For Laura

Entry No. 4 from the Tributes Series

I have so much to say about my dear friend, Laura. I’m having a hard time condensing it all into one reasonable post. She is just that amazing!

I met Laura many years ago through homeschooling. She was the one who introduced our family to speech and debate, which ended up becoming a huge part of our lives. Laura is persistent and persuasive when she really believes in something; Thus, she insisted that we attend a conference. We did, and the rest is history.

Laura is one of those women who seems to know everyone and loves to connect people with people, as well as people with causes. I discovered this early on in our relationship, so whenever I organized a speech and debate tournament, I delegated all the PR to Laura. Let me tell you, no one can recruit judges like Laura can! The politicians who came to her door promoting themselves for the next elections, had no idea they would end up judging a round of debate the next day. But she had her way of persuading them, and sure enough our beginner debaters were being adjudicated by congressmen and mayors!

Laura has strong convictions and pours herself out wholeheartedly for the things she believes in. She is a strong believer and loves Jesus passionately. She believes that the Gospel saves and that people need to hear it. She unashamedly pursues unbelievers in order to share her faith with them. She was a missionary in Guatemala many moons ago, and now a missionary in her own city. I just love that about her.

Her love and service of others is simply outstanding. Yes, she is a loving mom and a wonderful wife, but more than that, she befriends anyone in need of friendship and nurses anyone needing care (oh yeah, I didn’t mention she is actually a nurse and she has helped me a bijillion times with all my health consultations πŸ˜‰ )

If I ever need a friend, I know Laura is just a text away! She will lend me a listening ear, and she will also tell me her opinion plainly and simply. She’s a no-nonsense, down to earth counselor, and she’s not afraid to speak the truth. Her love is evident, and she follows through with much grace.

Laura endures hardship with strength and optimism. Auto-immune disease, loss of job, career change, and other difficulties she face are not enough to sway her from her steadfast joy and hope in her God. She doesn’t crumble under pressure but becomes a problem solver. She is not only self-motivated, but creative and resourceful. And when she finds something good, she gets everybody to join her! She can’t eat wheat. No problem! She finds a million recipes for delicious gluten-free foods. She discovers a fun way to exercise and soon enough her entire neighborhood joins Zumba classes. She can’t practice nursing any more, so she becomes a great salesperson (something she thought she would never be able to do) and she recruits like a pro! And hey, why not do some Uber driving on the side?

I admire you, Laura. I deeply appreciate your friendship and I love you very much. When we are old and… OK, I was going to say wrinkled, but with that Nerium you sell, that may never happen to you ;). Anyway, when we are really old, let’s move to the same community (Cristen, Leslie, and Carmen, you come too!). You can make your amazing chips and salsa, we can go to adapted Zumba-with-walkers classes or stroll together every morning, like we used to do at the lake, except a lot slower. Then we can visit in the afternoons and I can help you practice Spanish so you don’t forget it. Our kids all love each other, so when all 7 visit, we can have parties with lots of Ecuadorian/Guatemalan/Japanese/Cuban/gluten-free food. It will be a blast, I tell you πŸ™‚

2 years ago when she visited me in RVA and we went to Maymont

2 years ago when she visited me in RVA and we went to Maymont

At Les Miserables :)

At Les Miserables πŸ™‚

Laura with her man :)

Laura with her man, at my house, in some sort of a party…

Laura and Cristen cleaning the house I was moving into

Laura and Cristen cleaning the house I was moving into

<3

❀

My Tia is The Best Tia

Entry No. 2 from the Tributes Series: To my Tia (aunt) Cristina.

I was a scared teenager when I moved to the United States upon graduating from high school. I barely knew the language, I had no friends, I had never driven a car, much less in such a big city, and I had never fended for myself. Even though I had not grown up close to Cristina, and I barely knew her, she stepped into my life with a bang and helped me survive and assimilate to this new world of mine. She made me clothes that were in style (because styles vary from country to country and I looked like a dork in Miami standards), taught me to speak “Cuban”, and helped me laugh, even in the midst of such uncertainty and loneliness. I knew I could count on her. Her friendship became a life line, and she took hold of a permanent place in my heart.

Cristina is one of the funniest people I know. Last time I saw her in Miami, she greeted me with a joke, as always. She laughs at herself and she laughs at life. We recently grieved the loss of my uncle together. Cristina has the gift of truly embracing difficult emotions, while at the same time pointing out the light and comical. No one can cry and laugh in one sitting like she can. I’m so thankful for that!

Some of the things that I mostly admire about her, are her courage and perseverance. She has faced life and motherhood while single, working several jobs, even three at a time, relying solely on God for strength. When I grow up, I want to be like her πŸ˜‰

Cristina, I’m so blessed to have you in my life. Though we rarely talk, I am confident that I can always count on you, and that you will rejoice with me when I’m happy and hurt with me when I cry. I am so proud of you! You are a wonderful mom, sister, daughter, and friend. I’ve witnessed your spiritual growth. I know my grandfather would have been so pleased to see you serving God with such passion and love.

I love you.

My 18th birthday, 2 months after I moved to the states, with Cristina, my uncle Aris, and my grandparents.

My 18th birthday, 2 months after I moved to the states, with Cristina, my uncle Aris, and my grandparents.

She was a fashionista and we made outfits for my birthday.

She was a fashionista and we made outfits for my birthday.

Maid of Honor at my wedding.

Maid of Honor at my wedding.

Cristina with her daughter, Gabi, and my son, Daniel

Cristina with her daughter, Gabi, and my son, Daniel

Cristina now :)

Cristina now πŸ™‚

Mikala

Entry No. 3 from the Tributes Series

She was just the second student I had upon moving to VA. I had left my private voice studio in Miami, where I had more than 30 students whom I loved dearly. Now I was living in Richmond, without friends, connections, or recommendations. And in came 15 year old Mikala. She was the type of kid who listened to every word I said, took it all to heart, practiced wholeheartedly, and did not settle for less than her best. I had a few students like that in Miami. Now Mikala was blessing me by reminding me that I could have the same kind of fulfillment I had left behind, here in my new home.

Mikala and I connected instantly. She had the passion and the determination needed to grow in her craft, and I had the love and enthusiasm to help her in every way I could. Not sure who helped whom the most, but I know the blessing was mutual. She has continued to study with me, every week for the past two and a half years, with the same courage and drive as she started. I admire her work ethic, discipline, and disposition; three traits that will take Mikala far in life, with the help of God.

Mikala is strong. I have seldom seen a young person suffering so many injuries and illnesses, and battle them courageously with the help of her family (hats off to her momma for being a great one :)) She is also strong in her thinking, not caving in to peer pressure, trends, or fads. She has a mind of her own, knows what she wants, and goes for it. She doesn’t like to lose time, but keeps herself engaged, takes her school seriously, and loves to excel in everything she does. I had the pleasure of helping her with speech three years ago when her mom and I ventured out and started an NCFCA club in RVA. I’m very pleased to see that Mikala is competing next week in impromptu at Nationals, and has become an exceptional debater as well.

I am blessed to have Mikala in my studio, but beyond that, I am honored to have her, as the special human that she is, in my life. One day Mikala and I will be in the presence of Jesus, singing praises to him, together. For now, we just practice.

With Elise at an NCFCA debate tournament

With Elise at an NCFCA debate tournament

Last year's recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Last year’s recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Dueting with Will. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Dueting with Will. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Competing at NATS with style and finesse. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Competing at NATS with style and finesse. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Mikala singing at last week's recital

Mikala singing at last week’s recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

So proud. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

So proud. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Ode to Joy

A friend on Facebook shared how she is going to pay tribute to meaningful people in her life, not after they die, but while they are still alive. I deeply appreciate this reminder to give words of gratitude and encouragement to those who have blessed me throughout my life. Therefore, I am purposing to write a tribute a week. If I keep up with this goal, I will have expressed my appreciation to 52 of the amazing people in my life, by this time next year πŸ™‚

The first person I have decided to pay tribute to is my friend Joy Osborn. She is my boss. And she is a keeper.

Joy is enthusiastic, and her energy and positive attitude are infectious. In spite of pregnancies and babies, Joy doesn’t skip a beat. She compliments me every time I wear my yellow jeans and she answers my emails at 2:00 AM (I mean, really, does anyone else have a boss who does that)? She greets me with a smile every time I see her in class and her bit of sarcasm suits me well ;). She wears miss-matched socks to camp, comes up with crazy games for the kids, and bends over backwards to make sure everything is well planned and delivered. Joy has helped me when I didn’t know what to do, covered for me when I dropped the ball, and even sewn costumes for my students… because God knows that me and the sewing machine do not get along all that great.

Thank you, Joy, for your love for God, your commitment to integrity, and your passionate dedication to your job and the people in it. You have influenced me way more than you probably are aware you have. In fact, I have subconsciously adopted your way of communicating, by often ending my sentences with “You know what I mean?”

I’m gonna miss you when you move away. If it weren’t because your equally awesome husband is waiting for you elsewhere, I would try to sabotage your departure…. somehow.

I couldn’t find a picture of you and me, but I did find this one from the day you made your way into the hair and makeup room to help with Elise’s “White Witch” hair extensions.

This is not my picture, but has been all over the internet. I just “borrowed” it from you, Joy lol. This picture says it all!