Man Overboard on Oasis of the Seas – we were there

It was right around 1 a.m. when I woke up to an announcement on the outside speakers. Muffled through our balcony door, all I could hear was “….. port side ….. port side.”

I was curious, but half asleep. I almost ignored it, but since we were on the port side I decided to have a look. I first checked our peephole to the cruise hallway. Nothing. Then to our balcony door. First thing I noticed was the cruise ship had stopped moving. Next I could see a spotlight pointed toward a bobbing light in the ocean. My neighbors were out on their balcony.

“Man overboard,” she said. “That’s the rescue boat out looking for him.”


I called to Brian, “Man overboard…”

We stood on our balcony watching the rescue boat. We could hear the rescuers calling for the man in the rough seas. Desperate cries in the dead of night.

I texted my family, curious if any of the others were awake. My mom replied first. She could feel the boat shifting and turning, and could smell the smoke from the engines as it strove to turn our massive ship. She was scared. I told her the situation and promised to keep her updated as I heard anything. Sam texted next. “What’s up?”

I filled her in and immediately she asked to meet me in the hallway. Her cabin was just across the hall from ours. She came to me in tears. “What happened to him?”

Since I didn’t know, I had little share. Her heart was heavy and she wanted to find out. She decided to go up to the upper decks and ask around. I asked her to keep us updated.

Within 30 minutes, she had found out and was heartbroken. A YouTube video had already been uploaded and showed the man clinging to the metal bracing for the lifeboat. People were screaming. He was trying to pull himself up when he slipped and fell into the ocean.

Sam asked me to come and be with her. I met her again in the hallway and her tears were flowing. I wrapped my arms around her.

“They didn’t even care, Mom!” As Sam had gone investigating, she’d come up on a group at a bar. Swirling a glass of whiskey, one man said, “Yeah, I heard it. People say he jumped from the top, but he didn’t. Happened down below. Fight, from what I heard. Guy’s a goner.”

Sam sobbed, “How can he be drinking his whiskey and laughing while this man is fighting for his life in the ocean? What if that was his family member out there?”

She was undone. See, we’ve had a family member out there. We loved a soul who was lost to the waves.

We had to help.

Two women on board of a ship of 6,000 people, what were we going to do?

We walked down to where he’d fallen. It was roped off, but we could still walk around the rest of the deck. Crew members were stationed there at regular intervals, looking. We searched with them as Sam continued to cry. “Mom, how lonely he must feel out there. He can see the lights of the cruise ship but he can’t get to us. He must be so scared, mom. He must be sooo scared.”

We kept looking. And praying. We ran into another couple. The woman was emotional, but the man was callous. “Guy must have been drunk.” He waved his hand, dismissive. “No way he made it.” I pulled Sam to walk away. Worried she might deck him.

We kept looking.

3 am, 4 am, 5 am.

We watched them drop another rescue boat.


Dawn began to break as we kept searching, grateful for the lightening skies.


The altercation that led to this man’s passing happened four cabins down from my mother’s room. We went to see her, hugged her and gathered together on her balcony. We could see the blood on the metal frame from her balcony. This was not a distant tragedy. This was right on our doorstep.

The ship circled for seven hours as the rescue boats continued to search the seas. Finally, a coast guard plane in the distance.

With help now there, our ship turned towards it’s original course and began to move. Our man overboard was not rescued on our watch… and late Saturday afternoon the entire search was suspended.

He was lost to the sea.

I heard all kinds of reactions on the boat that day – not many of them kind. An elevator full of people joking about sharks. Others worried we might be late getting to our destination. And when there was speculation that he jumped, words were harsh, callous. Even my own initial reaction – like a curious spectator coming up on the scene of a car accident, was less than truly engaged.

And then my girl.

People wondered if she knew him, so heartfelt were her tears. No, she didn’t know him. But he was a fellow human being out in the sea. Scared. Hurt. Lonely. Lost. And that moved her to pray with everything that she had, cry with abandon and ache for his pain.

The depth of her heart touched and convicted mine. Such love! Such passion! Such beauty!

Early in the morning, while we were still searching, Sam said to me: “Mom, I’ve never prayed for anyone as hard as I have for him.”

In the distance, a rainbow began to appear. The rescue boat was framed in front of it. Later, when we knew that there was little likelihood he would be found, I turned Sam’s face toward mine as the tears came. “Sam, you have no idea what your prayers have done for that man. Because your heart is tender, because you called out, you have no idea what God might have done on his behalf. That rainbow could have been an answer to your prayer in his final moments, showing him he was not alone, comforting him in his fear.”


It’s Monday. I can’t get this story out of my mind. I can’t get Sam’s emotion over his suffering out of my heart. We’ve all become so callous to the pain of others. I know, I get it – we can’t feel everything. Not every situation should break us. But some situations should.

I should let the suffering of those in my world capture my heart and break my heart – and then pray with abandon. And then maybe, like what happened that morning, God will provide a rainbow in someone’s life to say, “I’m here. I am with you. You are not alone.”

This week, my daughter taught me. And so I pray. God, don’t let me be callous to the pain of others. Show me which situations I should pour my heart into, which heartbreak I should let break mine. Don’t let me be the one swirling whiskey in my glass as someone is dying. May I stand in the gap for those that are suffering, drowning in pain, addiction, loss. May my prayers do what Sam’s did – bring a glimpse of your goodness to a hurting life. A rainbow to remind someone of your love, comfort and presence. Let me be moved as you are moved. In Jesus name, amen.


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Form-fitting gear, medals and turtle dreams

I’m sporting this shirt for luck today.


Tomorrow I’ll be wearing this.


Not to church. Did that last week and it was sooooo awkward.

I’m actually wearing it to my very first Aquabike race, triathlon style.

750m swim, 20k bike, 750m swim.

I’m ready, I think.

Except they have this weird rule in racing triathlons where they log your age as what you’ll be on December 31st of the same year.


As if 46 doesn’t feel old enough.

But you know what? It’s okay. Better than okay. I thought I would be scared today. I thought for sure I’d obsess about cycling into another biker, dream about whacking some other poor swimmer on the head or imagine myself coming in long after the sun goes down and the rest of the racers are home with their feet up sipping electrolyte drinks.

But I’m not obsessing, dreaming or imagining all those horrible things.

I’m excited!

I’m pumped!

I keep walking around the house and informing family members, dogs and the occasional fly… “I’m going to be in a race tomorrow, don’t know if you know. It’s a swim, bike, swim. Yeah… so.”

I can’t wait to put on my form fitting tri-outfit that celebrates and accentuates my extra curves – leaving far too little to the imagination. I’m excited to strap the timing chip around my ankle and put on my lime green swim cap with my own very own race number. I’m all giddy about gathering with the other racers and hearing “Go” and then dashing off into the chilly water to begin my first swim.

I feel like a kid again – but even better because back in the day I was too scared to even try stuff like this. I loved adventure, but I hated the idea of racing, being last, being the turtle in the midst of the rabbits.

But now I truly don’t care. I’m a racer. An athlete. A 46 (or 47 – whatever) year old triathlete, to be exact. Go, turtle, go!

So if you think of it tomorrow, say a little prayer for this aging racer. That I don’t run any cyclers off the road, drown any fellow swimmers or come in long after the final horn has blown. Just pray I finish with a smile on my face. And that I get a medal. I really, really want a medal.

Okay, off I go. Gotta go start putting on my outfit. It takes a bit of time to stuff all of me in there.

On your mark, get set, GO!

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I wanna be a stick chick.

I do not have a stellar track record on weight loss.

Let’s take a look:

In 1986, I made a resolution to lose weight.

In 1987, I made a resolution to lose weight.

Hold on, maybe this will go quicker: From 1986 through 2014, I made a resolution that looked something like this: I’d like to lose ____ pounds (the actual amount depended on the year and the sheer volume of salty snacks that had been stuffed into my stocking. Thanks, Santa (AKA me)).

In 1986: Fail

In 1987, 1988, 1989: fail.

You get the picture.

I rationalize it though. At least I lose and gain the same number of pounds every year. Those babies are familiar. “Hey, there you are again! Welcome back, you cute little mass of fat cells, you.”

This year, however, is different.

And I’ll tell you why.

My reasons are different. My goals are different. Instead of some vague out there goal of wanting to lose the weight so I can be cute (yeah, that ship has sailed) or training for a sport that’s beyond my pigeon toed capabilities (think triathlon training that took out a knee a few years back). This year I have some challenging goals – but they’re within reach – and I’m super excited about them.

I even did research. I plugged in “Fit over 40” for some ideas and inspiration. The first thing that came up was a series of Pinterest pics labeled “Fit and fabulous over 40.” I guess fabulous (according to Pinterest), means fit, tan and ahem… buxom. I don’t know how that happens, but I see it all the time. Before pics of heavy, pale and flat chested women. After pics of women who are now tan, slender and busty. How did they move those pounds around so gloriously?

I’m skeptical of my own success in that area.

In fact, any buxomness I may have had will disappear as I lose weight. I know this and I’ve embraced it.

Hence, my weight loss journey will be documented on… yes… our appropriately named StickChick blog.

To read the rest of this post and see my killer stick figure comic strip, click here. And by the way, this is a journey I’m taking with Sam, our 23-year-old daughter. She will be writing too and she’s a fabulous writer. Please consider signing up to receive the blog (here again) and commenting as you feel like it. We would love your support and we hope you’ll get a kick out of the ride!

Posted in Elsa Kok Colopy, fit and fabulous, fit over 40, Mother daughter weight loss, New Year's resolutions, Setting fitness goals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Savannah, Justin Bieber and a Dark Night

I’m 45 years old and I downloaded a Justin Bieber song.

It’s true.

Sure it was a while ago, but the lyrics came to mind this week.

As long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke.

Now that’s sweet.

This last weekend Brian and I went camping up in the mountains. I carried Savannah on my back in a cool little pack and Brian carried all the rest of our gear – tent, sleeping bags, diapers, food and a million other “just in case” essentials.

And yet I was the one to get all the compliments from the other hikers.

“Wow, way to go.”

“Good job, Mom.”

Brian carried twice the weight and received half the glory.

I married a good man.


So we got to the campsite, six miles up a long and winding trail. By the time we arrived, I was drenched from head to toe in sweat and my shoulders were aching. I was thrilled to see the cabin where we could check in and Savannah was thrilled to see all the other hikers. She doesn’t know a lot of words yet, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She’ll hold a conversation with just about anyone as long as they nod at her animated noises.

We finally headed off to our site, set up our tent and nestled into our jammies. I wondered at Savannah. This was her first time out in the wild. Her first time camping. Her first time hiking.

Would she hold up?

I wasn’t sure what a dark night and the cold mountain air might bring. I could picture us trying to rock her as she wailed at the injustice of it all. Where is my crib? What have you done? Why is there a bear nibbling on my ear?


We laid out our sleeping bags and snuggled her in between us. She pulled her blankie up to her nose and looked around.


Her eyelids did the sleepy shuffle and Brian and I exchanged smiling glances above her head. This just might work!

The sky darkened and Brian and I whispered a sweet conversation until our own bodies settled in.

At home Savannah usually wakes at 4 a.m. I’ll sneak in, give her a pacifier and off she’ll go to dreamland again. On this trip she woke up several more times than usual. Maybe it was the dark, the noise of the fellow campers, the colder night air.

I thought she might get undone, but instead, she woke up and reached out her hand. She touched my chest, “Mama.” She reached over to Brian, “Papa.”

And went back to sleep.

Four or five times through the night, “Mama,” “Papa.” Back to sleep.

She didn’t care if it was cold. Dark. Different. As long as we were there, she was fine.

I had a tougher week this week. My heart was hurt. I was tempted to pout, wail, ball up my fists. But then I remembered Savannah and her nighttime touches, and instead I imagined myself curling into my God’s arms, tapping his chest, “Papa.”

He’s there. I’m safe. And as long as he loves me, I can face anything.

Enter Justin Bieber: As long as you love me, we could be homeless, we could be starving, we could be broke.

Of course the week didn’t bring anything near as dramatic as all that, but the song came to mind. And yes, that’s why I downloaded a Justin Bieber song at 45 years old. It makes me think of my God and it reminds me of what’s important, no matter what this life brings.

He loves me. And I desperately need that.

But don’t expect me to dance. Or flip my hair as I gyrate my hips.

I have my limits.

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I choose you!

It happened every time I walked across the play yard to the baby room. And it started as soon as I was in view.

“Laurentz!” They yelled.


photo1I walked up to the tiny fence where four beautiful dark toddlers looked up at me as their chorus of voices rang out.

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” They asked.

“Oui.” I said.

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” They asked, again and again.

“Oui, mwen Mama Laurentz.” I said as I touched their faces or rubbed their hair.

I looked over them to see Laurentz on his nanny’s lap. His bright eyes were waiting for mine and when our gaze met, his face lit up. He pointed in my direction. “Hurry!” he seemed to say as she finished getting him ready.

IMG_4296IMG_4300I looked down again at the babies waiting there. One or two had their arms outstretched. It was tough not to scoop up every single one. To be Mama Nathaniel and Mama Caleb and Mama Toto.

It wasn’t that they understood that I am actually Laurentz’s adoptive Mom, it’s just that they know I came for him. I chose him. Just like visiting missionaries who get attached to a certain child get dubbed Mama Lito or Papa Guivenson, I was Mama Laurentz.

IMG_4301I glanced again at Laurentz. He wriggled free from his nanny and came charging across the baby room with his too large shoes flapping on the concrete. He held up his arms to me and I scooped him up and hugged him close.


Oh, how I love that boy!

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” The other babies kept asking, even as I walked away with my son.

Oui, I thought to myself, mwen Mama Laurentz. But oh, how I wished I could be Mama to all. I wished I could choose each one. I wished I could bring the kind of wide smile that brightens Laurentz’s face to each one of those beautiful babies.

I still wish I could say to each one: I choose you.

Those babies long for love. And when someone reaches out and says “I choose you,” it changes their entire countenance. When they know… No matter their saggy diaper, their runny nose, their too-big shoes… I choose you. Something significant shifts inside of them.

I remember that feeling myself. On my knees, in a chapel, not long after my divorce. Feeling horrible for the things I’d done and not done. Dressed spiritually in a saggy diaper, my hands dirty and my eyes to the ground. Figuring of all the people God would choose, it wouldn’t be me.

And up walked my God. I choose you. I still choose you.


And what I understand even more today is that it’s mutual. My response mattered to God. Just like when I walked to that baby room with such joy, looking for Laurentz – his joy at my arrival quadrupled my own. His smile, his delight, his wriggling to get into my arms – I loved it!

I don’t know how God does it, but He does. He chooses each one of us. He chooses you. And you. And you. In His world, no one is left behind. No one is left standing at the gate with their arms outstretched, tears on their faces.

And if my heart exploded with joy when Laurentz ran to me with a smile, how much more does our God delight when we run to him, when we receive his love and let the joy ooze out of every pore.

He chooses you. And you. And you.

And you.

Now run to him…. Let your shoes flap on the concrete as you raise up your arms and smile wide.

Because, my friend, he’s come for you.

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From Tragedy to the Best Stuff Ever

Four years ago, it was tragedy that prompted my Christmas letter. Within two months time, our world was upended. In May my husband gave a kidney to our oldest son Sean, and we fought through the healing/rejection/healing process. Then my dad went sailing one warm July day and never came home. He somehow fell overboard and drowned at sea. Twelve days later my 17-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident.

I wanted people to know. Somehow it made it more real to write it all down – to say to myself and others… this really happened and it nearly broke my heart.

This year has been the complete opposite and I find myself in the same position. I want people to know. Because as horrible as 2009 was, 2013 was one of the best years ever. I mean, ever. Two major miracles happened this year and every time I think of them, my heart fills up with goofy, sappy Christmas joy.

Savannah Grace: She is our first miracle. Ten months old today, Savannah entered our world in the most unexpected, delightful way. After the heartbreak of a failed adoption (when a birth mom changed her mind), we began our pursuit of our Haitian children. Then in February of this year – one week before Savannah was due, we received a phone call – were we still interested in adopting a baby? Our hearts soared and two weeks later, Brian and I stood in the delivery room as Savannah entered the world. Moments later in a memory that will forever be etched in my heart, Brian cut the cord and Savannah Grace was ushered into our waiting arms.

A miracle. A delight. The best gift ever.

We have enjoyed every moment with Savannah since. The nighttime feedings, the drool, bath times, first smiles and today the wobbling stance as she grips the table and tries to stand.


Savannah and her Christmas bear

Then another miracle. For nearly nine years, my husband and his daughters have been estranged. I had never met them, although we literally prayed for them every single day. Over the years Brian faithfully reached out. He so longed for relationship with them and refused to give up.

One day he received a text message. “It’s time to bury the hatchet,” said one of his girls.

Not too long after, Brian had a business trip to Ohio and invited the girls to dinner. They said yes. All of us here in Colorado prayed that whole day. Brian met them at a nice Italian place and as the hours passed, we anxiously awaited word. Did it go well? Were they able to enjoy one another, talk, laugh?

Four hours later, Brian called. He’d spent all four hours with the girls, lingering over a meal. Conversation and laughter flowed easily. “It was as if we’d never been apart,” he said.

My mom, Sam, me… tears. Joyful hugs. Awestruck delight.

Over Thanksgiving I had the chance to meet my step-daughters for the first time. They were beautiful, smart, gracious and kind. They met their sister Savannah and one day soon will get to meet Samantha.It all felt so right and good, so natural – better than any of us could have hoped for or dreamed of…


First meal: Cassie, Sean, Jessica, Savannah, me and Brian

I don’t want to forget this, this overflowing joy of answered prayer. Life is hard. Painful. Broken. And I know so many of you come into this Christmas season carrying grief that nearly bends you double. I get it. We still carry the loss of Dad and Caleb in our hearts – even more so as we wish they could have met Savannah, Jessica and Cassie. But for some of you the pain is fresh and deep. After this last year I just want you to know, I want everyone to know – that there will be good days ahead. That God hears and answers prayer, that there is light (huge, bright and beautiful) still ahead.

Sometimes  I wonder – what will 2014 bring? Will we get to bring Wilna, Lovence and Laurentz home from Haiti? Will our hearts break with new tragedies? Or will there be some other unexpected bundle(s) of joy on our doorstep.

I truly don’t know.

But whatever comes, I am so very grateful for our God. He is the one who gives good gifts and yet still holds us when the heartbreak comes.

It may sound like just the type of thing I would say for Christmas, but it’s so stinkin’ true. In God’s arms I am safe no matter what comes and so are you. That is the very best gift we could ever receive.

Thank you, Jesus!

And Merry Christmas my friends…          

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Welcome: Savannah Grace Colopy

We would like to introduce you to the newest member of the Colopy family:


Savannah Grace Colopy turned two weeks old yesterday.

Oh friends, what a month this has been! We’ve been bursting to tell you about it, but we wanted to wait until some final papers were signed. But now… now we can tell you the story of Savannah Grace and how she came into our world.

Here’s part one:

It all started with a text.

“Call me. Important :)”

It was my mom. She lives in Florida and when I called she told me of an e-mail that someone had sent to her church’s office. A young pregnant woman was looking for parents for her baby – did they know of anyone who might be interested? The secretary at the church knew our story and sent the information to my mom.

My mom called on Thursday afternoon, February 7th. The baby was due Tuesday, February 12th – only five days later. In Orlando.

Hmmm. What are the odds? I was already scheduled to fly into Orlando for a speaking engagement. On her due date. On the 12th.

I talked to Brian. We stared at one another. Grinned a goofy grin. Could it be?

I called the number my mom had given me. I thought I was going to talk with a friend of the birth mom, but instead I ended up with the birth mom herself. We’ll call her Jordynn.

I wasn’t expecting to talk to her directly and was less than eloquent. I felt like I stumbled all over myself as I shared some of our journey, about our boys in Haiti, about our lives.  I asked about her world and she was articulate, kind and gracious. She wanted the best for her child and didn’t have the means to care for or provide for her.

She wanted to know more about us, so I referred her to our adoption blog to see our pictures and read our story, and then encouraged her to Google my name to find out more about us.

I figured it would take a very special young woman to look at our world, our adoption of two active boys from Haiti, our wrinkles, our wacky sense of humor – and find it appealing to place her daughter in our care. Then I Googled my name to see what came up first and what she might think. It was my book: Pure Love, Pure Life – the purity book for teens.

Great, I imagined her thinking. She’s one of those people.

Relax, Elsa. Just breathe.

We waited several more hours and then Jordynn called us back. “I would be honored and delighted if you and Brian would raise my daughter,” she said.

I nearly fell over. Brian’s jaw dropped.

Really, God? Would it happen like this??

Oh friends, the next weeks would bring tremendous highs and gut-wrenching lows. Over the next few days I’ll share the story on our adoption blog ( – you can sign up to receive it via e-mail by clicking on the link if you like…) – but for now, will you celebrate with us? Savannah Grace Colopy is now in our world. Daughter to Brian and Elsa, Little sister to Sean, Jessica, Cassie, Sam, Lovence and Laurentz. We are a family of seven and we couldn’t be happier.

God is so good!

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