Things I’ve Learned

In the last 24 hours I have learned a lot of things.  Here are just a few of the things I learned….

10403142_691594270895165_3282434633116803121_nAbout Our Family

  • We can survive a car ride with all six of us!  At least for twenty minutes…
  • We are awesome together and it is awesome to be together.
  • We’re a normal family.  We love each other to the moon and back, theoretically of course… practically so far we just love each other to Ukraine and back but that’s besides the point.  My point is, we love each other tons, but we also scuffle and wrestle, learn and grow, and live this beautifully messy and chaotic life that only a family could step away from and realize they never want to leave it again.
  • Sometimes it’s ok to bribe the two year old with Skittles at 7:00am in the morning.  Not saying that happened, just saying that apparently there are situations where that is totally acceptable.
  • We have the best husband and father in the world.  We are so blessed to have him.

About the Rest of the Week

  • We are going to be here a while…
  • The Ronald McDonald House will hopefully have room for us on Friday.
  • Daddy, Evangeline and Jacob just left.  They will stay at home for one or two nights so Daddy can get a little work done and we can save on hotels.  Feeling quite alone tonight.
  • My Daddy is taking a long weekend to come help out at the hospital!  So excited for him to meet his new grandkids and to have the extra hands.
  • It’s going to be long and hard, but in a good and necessary way.  This is the road to healing, and we’re glad to finally be on it.

About Nurses

  • The nurses at our children’s hospital are amazing.
  • EKG nurses do not like being asked to wait until morning to run their tests.
  • There are a lot of pregnant ladies here and they look super cute in scrubs.
  • Just because they say something has to be a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t ask so many questions that they finally give up and consult the doctor about it to get away from you.

About Jacob

  • We were very hopeful that he would be able to get a walker right away to get him off the ground, but the OT didn’t think that would be realistic.  His feet are profoundly contracted and will need some time to get to a neutral enough position where standing properly is possible.
  • He needs an MRI just to check everything out and some x-rays and blood work, but other than that he should be fine until we can get him therapy at home.
  • He is super happy to have his Daddy back.  And that doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  • He has a real sense of humor.  We were able to have a translator with the doctor and he was telling jokes all during the visit and loved conversing and interacting.
  • He’s compassionate.  He asked the translator several times why Zhanna was sick, was she going to be ok, etc.  He was obviously concerned and we were able to comfort him, but how sweet to see he cares so much about his little big sister.
  • He kept telling us all throughout the doctor’s visit “I’m not scared.  I’m not scared of anything.”  Our brave boy, denied a real childhood all these years.  So excited to introduce him to the experience of being carefree.

About Hope

  • She is a warrior princess.  I am totally in awe of her ability to endure grueling, painful and terrifying circumstances for days on end with so little resistance and so much joy.  How much she’s teaching me.
  • She will need to be in the hospital for at least a week in order to get her nutritionally stable.  We were hopeful for a much shorter time frame, but God’s hand has been so near to us here it has actually been spiritually replenishing for me to just totally rest in His arms through this.
  • She tolerates her IV so well!  She hardly touches it and hasn’t tried to rip it out once, even though it is preventing her from propping herself up or laying in her favorite position.  So proud of my girl!
  • She is quite anemic, which you can totally guess just by looking at her, but strangely enough her iron levels aren’t that bad.  They’re running some more labs to figure out exactly what time of anemia it is so we can work on getting her the supplements she needs.
  • This girl is going to learn to walk!  The physical therapist believes there is no reason she cannot learn to walk with a walker as her strength increases.  Her bone density looks good and she will be able to bear weight when she’s ready.  In fact, she highly recommends we get her a stander right away so she can start getting used to being in an upright position!  How exciting!
  • And I knew this already, but the nurses are confirming it again.  She has a beautiful spirit and a delightful smile.  She is charming the socks off of everybody… except for the x-ray technicians… and the people with the pokes… She doesn’t seem to care for them much.  Not sure why.  😉

Until tomorrow friends!

Running on Empty

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My heart is full… we are finally together!  When Jake put our Hope in my arms this evening and I had a few precious moments with her before things got crazy again I was so happy and relieved; the tears just came.  Holding her while watching my other three children play on the floor, all in the same room, I can’t even express the joy of it.

My cup is overflowing.  My heart is full, my arms are full… my hands are full and so is my plate.  I have one day left in Ukraine and a million things to accomplish in that short time frame!  But the last few days have taken it out of me.  Physically, emotionally and mentally I am running on empty; we all are.

We could use your prayers.  Pray that God would strengthen us to be good parents even in the hard moments.  Pray that that our Consular Officer will have mercy on our little girl and make an exception so she can get her visa on Friday.  She didn’t really eat much for us today and I would be worried sick about her deteriorating if she has to stay in Kiev three extra days over the weekend before making it to the children’s hospital in Saint Louis.  Pray for supernaturally restful sleep for everyone.  It will be a very long day tomorrow and we all need to be on the top of our game.

Please no advice.  We really have everything under control.  But there is so much outside of our control that we very much need prayers for.  And if I do need guidance about transitioning traumatized, fragile children while travelling or any parenting advice I have plenty of experienced mamas I promise I will ask.

Nor do I need spiritual advice on praying harder or trusting God more, I’m sure I know anything and everything you’ve got to tell me.  Yes, I probably need to hear it, but not it isn’t going to help me right now.  Just keep us in your prayers, and if you see a spiritual deficiency (I promise there are many) just say extra prayers for that.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear it, I am just running on empty and have literally no energy to process any well-meaning advice other than possibly “Go get some sleep and drink some coffee.”

And with that, I am going to go to sleep… and maybe we’ll have time for coffee in the morning.  After I finish paperwork anyway…

Someone Was Listening

Do you all remember this adorable picture?295393_524786704210116_1779142902_nThat’s my cutie pie shortly after he was transferred from his baby house to the orphanage he’s in now.   This picture is a gift from our missionary friend who met Jacob a few years ago.  Being able to discuss his personality with someone else who had met him was a huge factor in us feeling comfortable enough to pursue his adoption with our little ones.  Having these pictures has also been such a blessing as many adoptive parents have no early photos of their children.

But I was just talking to this missionary friend of ours the other day and she told me something new about this picture that makes it even more meaningful and special.  That toy in his hand is a play phone, and he was playing with it like any typical four year old would play with a pretend phone… he was having a pretend conversation.  Know what he was saying?

“Grandma, where are you?”

Just cut me right through the heart kiddo.  How many times in his life has he wondered that silent, lingering question?  Grandma, where are you?  And just two days ago I was overjoyed to be able to post this picture…

Babushka

She’s right here sweet boy.  And you have more grandmas and more love coming your way.  It may have been a pretend phone, but that was no pretend conversation.  Someone was listening on the other end, and He heard your child’s prayer.  Grandma is right here and so are we.  Here’s to never having to be alone.

Another First Meeting

Chalk

Though we have been visiting with Jacob for several weeks now, in some ways it seems like yesterday was the first day I actually met him.  We were able to take a translator with us to our visit, and for the first time we had someone sitting with us and him and telling us everything he said.  We got to ask him questions, tell him about our upcoming journey and his new home.  We told him his new name.  It was definitely my favorite visit so far.  We learned so much and I think he did too.

I hope you’re ready for another tear jerker post!  There were so many sweet moments, small glimpses into the heart and personality of my son that I thought I would have to wait months to see.  What a gift our translator friend was.  There were also some hilarious moments.

We asked him how he got those scrapes on his face and at first he simply said that someone hit him.  But when we asked why they hit him he began a riveting tale.  We had no idea what he was saying during the story but his facial expressions and hand gestures were so fun to watch.  Afterward the translator related to us that someone was playing with his wheelchair and he accidentally fell out.  And I thought, yup, that pretty much matches what his hands were saying!

We also asked about favorite foods.  His favorite food is potatoes (he will fit right in!).  We asked if he liked bread and he responded “Yes, and we have butter too.”  Haha!  This kid!  Had to make sure we knew about the butter.  He asked Papa if he liked any foods, and Daddy did not miss a beat.  In Russian he replied “Chicken!”  Jacob busted out laughing and saying over and over “Papa said chicken!  I asked him that question and he just said chicken!”  He thought it was the most hysterical answer ever.

One of the first things we did, though, was read through his photobook.  It has pictures of his family, grandparents, house, the airplane, etc. along with explanations and descriptions in English and Russian.  We have been showing him this book for weeks and pointing certain things out with the few words we have, but this is the first time it’s been read to him.

When we started with Mommy and Daddy’s page, how we had dreamed of him for so long and finally were able to come find him, he had the biggest smile.  He listened intently to all of it, nodding and saying “Da” throughout.  We were very pleased that when we got to his bedroom; he pointed to his bed and said “This is where I will sleep.”  That’s one of the things we had been trying to communicate and it got through!  Woohoo!

When we got to the bathrooms he also chimed in “And this is where I will pee and shower and brush my teeth.”  Haha, yes indeed.  He was very interested in our living areas and kept pointing to the furniture saying “And this is a sitting place.”  While inside they sit on the floor almost all day, so seeing all the comfortable couches and chairs was novel for him.

The best part of the whole day, though, came when we got to the very end of his book and she was reading to him about how we would have a long journey once we got him out of the orphanage and sometimes it would seem hard, but at the end he would be home.  He replied simply, “Yes, I will be home and I won’t be alone.”

I nearly cried right then and there.  He gets it.  Our son understands on some level what it means to have a family, on the most important level – he will not be alone.  Although we know he will have grieving to go through when he leaves the orphanage it was very clear to us today that he does want to leave.  He does want to come home with us, and that is such a relief to hear.

Before we left yesterday we were on the sidewalk drawing with chalk.  I had our translator ask if he ever gets to draw with chalk at the orphanage.  He said “Yes, I drew a butterfly.”  (Not sure if he was referring to when we drew with chalk before or if he really has done it with his nannies.)  We asked what he was drawing now and he said “Home”.  :)

Grammy drew a pretty sun and he loved it so much he threw his arms around her and said “Good job Grammy!”  It was super cute.  And then, looking around at the chalk lying all over and on everyone’s hands and clothes he asked “Who’s going to clean up this big mess?!”  Big laughs ensued from everyone.  Great question kiddo.

Definitely looking forward to this new, big, messy life.

A Babushka to Love

Babushka

I don’t think that they were expecting us today for some reason.  Usually Jacob is ready to go for his visit, but they had snack still to eat, and bathroom and something else to go do, so we waited for about fifteen minutes before we could see him.  Poor kiddo, we got to the orphanage right as they were wheeling him inside and he was so upset knowing I was there and he couldn’t go with me.  He also had purple iodine on his face today.  I suppose he fell and scraped it.

I went over to the staircase they usually come down and waited there.  He was very excited, as usual, and asked where Papa was (always his first question).  I replied with “Da Papa e sistra e brat e… Babushka!” Translation: Yes, Daddy and sister and brother and… Grandma!  He looked a little confused so I said “Yura Babushka” to let him know she was his grandma.  Wow did that kid’s eyes light up!!

He started talking very fast and excitedly and gave me the hugest hug ever.  Of course, he didn’t recognize her so Papa was the first person he shouted out to, but when we got closer I introduced them and as soon as the word Babushka came out of my mouth he reached out for her.  I handed him over and she got a great big hug and lots of sweet words (though we’re not sure what).  She just stood there for several seconds with him in her arms.  It was incredibly precious.

The rest of the visit he was quite partial to his new “Baba”.  We did have to correct him a few times as his mind immediately went to calling her Mama.  It makes sense as every other important woman in his life has probably been called that, and it’s so much easier to say.  But he got the knack.  We were very clear each time “I am Mama this is Babushka”.  I am not concerned that she will hinder our attachment at all.  I know from many experienced adoptive parents that grandparents are safe people that can typically interact as usual without causing attachment problems.  They are family, after all.  We are watching all the signs closely, but no concerns really at this point.

I was so thrilled to see him excited about his Babushka.  It makes me wonder how often he has thought or dreamed of having a grandma of his very own.  Wait till he sees all of his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to love him.  Not to mention our adopted church family!  He will have so many people loving on him he won’t even know what to do.  I cannot wait for him to realize how greatly loved he is by so many.

A Mommy and a Daddy… a sister and a brother… and a Grandma too???? “How could life possibly get any better?”  His face seemed to glow all day.  How indeed.  Just you wait kiddo.  Wait till you see all that we have planned and prepared for your new life.  We are an incredibly blessed little family of six, with so many to love and be loved by.  It’s on these mountaintops I can truly ask God “Could life get any better?”  And I’m sure He is smiling down at me and saying “Just wait child, wait and see all I have planned and prepared for your new life.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:1-3 

May You Wrestle with God

I will make the introduction brief, as I know you all have been waiting plenty long enough for the revealing of our son’s new name!  We are thrilled to be able to share this part of our journey with you, as God’s hands have been all over the naming of this sweet boy.

We were given many suggestions and much advice about his name, and we did take all things into consideration, but what it came down to in the end was that there are two names that were very clearly meant for our son, and those are the ones he has.  We are so thankful that God guided this decision, because we really were clueless about how to name him!  So much so that our facilitator had to call us and ask us for the name *that night* so she could turn in our court application.

Talk about feeling rushed!  But as soon as we sat down and began to think of the ways that God was nudging us, his name actually came quite easily and with little effort.  With that said, we are very pleased to announce the new name of our oldest son…

Jacob William

I suppose first I’ll get all of the why’s and how’s out of the way before I talk to you about the beautifully appropriate meaning of this name.  The first thing you might notice is the absence of his birth name here.  Truthfully, before travelling, we were actually planning on keeping “Juri” as that is what everyone had grown accustomed to calling him and we did like it.

But once we arrived we learned that his name did not have the same significance as our Zhanna Hope’s name.  It was given by a random nurse at the hospital that day and when we could not determine whether or not he was actually baptized with it, our minds began to change on the matter.  Suddenly this name that he had always been called didn’t hold any sentimental, spiritual or historical significance for us.  It seemed more like a placeholder, something to call an orphan boy who nobody wanted.

We had the nannies ask him if he wanted to keep his name or change it and he simply replied that he didn’t know what he wanted to be called.  Of course, perhaps he didn’t understand the question, and how could you ask a six year old to make such a decision?  But we felt that his answer was more of a confirmation to our thinking, and we moved forward with that decision.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun part!  How did God give us the names he does have?  Jacob, obviously, is his father’s name.  Neither of us ever had any inclination to have children named after us.  It seemed uncomfortable to name a person after yourself, and wouldn’t that just get confusing?  But this was very clear to us after the dream Jake had that led us to this child in the first place.  In the dream I called him Jacob, and that was a comfort to the scared little boy.

As we discussed it here in-country, what a gift you give to an adopted child by naming him after his father.  In this country children don’t have middle names like they do here, they have patronymic names, their middle name is their father’s first name.  Our son’s given patronymic name was totally made up, as no one knew who his father actually was!  For the first time in his life he will actually carry the true name of his earthly father.

In our country, many boys share their father’s first name, and it is usually the firstborn who receive that privilege.  Adopted children receive this honor far less commonly, especially if they are adopted after a son has already been born to the family.  But God preserved that name for this child, for our oldest son.  The name Jacob is culturally significant on both sides of the Atlantic, and as he grows we pray it will give him comfort and confidence that he is truly our son and a part of our family forever.

William is also a significant, familial name.  When we had a birthday fundraiser back in November, we gave everyone who participated an opportunity to suggest a name; a list that we would choose from for his middle name.  My dear sister chose William, and as we scanned the list, that one made the most sense with Jacob preceding it.  They went well together.

In addition, Jake’s grandfather (who passed away a couple years ago) was named William.  Evangeline and Stephen both bear middle names for dear grandparents who passed away around the time of their entrance into the world.  This grandfather is the only one who has passed so far that did not have a namesake from our children.  Now he does, and our son’s middle name matches the formula of both our biological children, strengthening those connections as we bind him to our family.

Jacob William… that is how the name came about.  And while that is all very interesting, the meaning of his name is even more powerful.  Jacob means “one who supplants,” or takes the place of another.  William means “determined protector” or “strong-willed warrior” depending on how you translate it.  When I first put these two meanings together I didn’t like them much, they did nothing for me, really.  (I guess that just goes to show it isn’t about me!)

But as I have pondered them more, they are so perfect for our son.  A supplanter, a person who rises up to take a position that was never meant for him.  An orphan who takes the position of eldest son?  That fits!  And doesn’t if fit all of us?  Are we not orphans whom God has chosen to become firstborn sons in His Kingdom?  I never knew why the name Jacob was given to the father of the Nation of Israel, yes it was changed but… couldn’t he have been born something better?  More honorable?

No… because none of us are born good or honorable.  We are bestowed goodness and honor and made sons of the King through the adoption – through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ.  What a fitting name for this child, who was born unwanted, unloved, lost and alone… who is now wanted, loved, found and coming home.

Through no strength or merit of his, and perhaps even unbeknownst to him in this moment, his life is changing radically.  He is the supplanter of what this world would have determined him to be.  He has overcome his status as an orphan and has been made a firstborn son.  Now doesn’t that sound a lot like you and me?  Oh the truths God is teaching me through my dear children.

And William!  What a glorious name, with such deep meaning and such great hope.  This child will be our beloved son no matter what.  We have no expectations of him whatsoever, and that is the way it should be!  But hopes?  Dreams?  Yes we do have those, and this name sums it up so perfectly.

Strong-willed, determined, that is what we hope for him.  That he will have the determination to overcome his years of loneliness and neglect.  That he will have the desire to throw off the limitations of his disability and rise above it.  Children coming from institutionalized settings have so much baggage and trauma to work through – they are survivors!  And that is what we hope for our sweet boy, not just that he will survive the trauma of his first six years, but that he will thrive in spite of all that has been taken from him.

And what might that determination and strong-will bestow on him?  He will be a warrior, a protector in our family.  This little boy who cannot yet even walk, may he grow up to be a strong, capable, protective older brother for his siblings.  I have every hope that he will, and what beautiful confirmation God has given me of that.

In Jake’s dream last year, he said to the scared little boy I had placed in his lap: “Is your name Jacob?  That’s my name too!  You know what our name means?  It means the angels in heaven are watching out for us special because God loves us even though we wrestle with him.”  Amen.  Amen.  Amen.

A foggy, uncertain past, a difficult and trying future, a life of grief and loss packed into such tender years, a disability that has shaped so much of his life… our Jacob will have much to wrestle God about as he grows.  And this is good; it is a blessing to wrestle with God.  Because if we are honest with ourselves, none of us truly have His heart or can read His mind.  We all have bones to pick with our Creator, not because of His shortcomings, but because of our own and our limited understanding.

Is it better to sit and stew and curse our Lord for His unknowable ways?  Or shall we boldly take up our place as sons and go to Him directly?  It is better to wrestle.  It is blessed to wrestle with God.  And God will love us through all of it, and He will bestow grace and mercy on His struggling children.

Or as my husband so eloquently put it in his dream… the angels in heaven will watch out for us special because God loves us even though we wrestle with him.  Welcome to the family Jacob William, may we be fit guides for you as you take your new, esteemed place in our household, and may you take up your new role with courage, strength and love.  May you never become discouraged or despondent when hardship assails you, but as the brave warrior you are, may you boldly wrestle with God.  And may He bless you for it.

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Opening Doors

IMG_0941Our sweet Hope is so giggly.  The nanny handed her to me today and as soon as she laid eyes on me she squealed in the excited, happy way she does.  I don’t know if she’s ever been that glad to see me so soon!  She is such a joy to be around, and she laughs and smiles more readily than any other child I know.  Other than feeding her, we spend most of our visit just listening to her laugh, and watching her as she smiles her way around the world.  She loves sensations and life and color and people.  What beautiful God-given joy this child radiates.

And yet the time came, as it always does, to take her back to her laying room for another day of nothingness and waiting and longing.  Typically it hasn’t bothered me so much; this life of nothingness is what she is accustomed to, so she will be alright for a couple more weeks of it, right?  But today as I watched her, everything in me just wanted to bring her with us, to a place she belongs, where she can enjoy life every moment instead of just an hour here and there.  And when we got to her room I very much wanted to run the other way.

There are two nannies I know dote on her and take special care of her.  But this was a new nanny today; I always hate giving her back to the nannies who seem indifferent.  Since it wasn’t a “favorite” nanny, I had to hand her back instead of being allowed to put her in her crib.  The door was strangely closed; it’s usually always open.  I handed her back and said my good byes, eliciting a small little glimmer before the nanny turned around.

As I walked away I realized why the door was closed; crying and screaming were coming from one of the tiny babies in her laying room.  My heart broke.  It broke for Hope because I know how much children’s crying upsets her and causes her anxiety.  It broke for the baby because he was obviously in need of something, and the nanny knew that, but instead of comforting or helping him she just closed the door and waited for it to stop.  It broke because I knew there was nothing I could do to take that child or any of the other children in that room out.

Right now that door opens for only one of these children… and that’s our Hope.  She is the only one with a family visiting her, rescuing her, showing her the world behind that cursed door.  I cannot wait to open the rest of the world to her.  And when I think on all these things I am so grateful, because it’s easy to sit here and type the unfolding story of a little girl learning to enjoy life for the first time, but getting here was so much more grievous, complicated and difficult.

I wrote a little in my Q&A Post about how God opened the doors for us to adopt these children, and how His hand was evident every step of the way.  God opened one door after the other, perfectly timed, so that we could be here right now.  I will talk about one particular door that was opened for us to start this process. Hope’s adoption was much more uncertain for much longer, but there will be plenty of time to tell all those stories eventually.

The one in particular I wanted to share, because I was asked (and have been asked this question many times) if our congregation is supportive of what we are doing.  Are they supportive of adoption in general?  Are they supportive of their pastor taking 6 weeks off to go to Eastern Europe?  I have had other pastor’s wives contact me, who are interested in adoption, asking how we managed this, especially since Jake is a first year pastor and just getting to know his people.  All I can say is… God opened the doors.

Whenever I think about our congregation I am so thankful and humbled by the treasure that they are to our family.  I must take a moment to brag on them because without them we wouldn’t be here, and I simply could not think of a better church family to come home to after two long and trying months of travelling overseas for this adoption.  Let me tell you a bit of the story.

Throughout my years of advocacy work I watched many families get burned by unsupportive congregations, not pastor’s families, but just godly, church-going people who desired nothing more than to show Christ’s love to the least of these, to be His hands and feet through adoption.  In some cases churches would not welcome their newly adopted children, or would marginalize them because of their special needs.  Some families would go to their churches for help during their adoptions, a logical place right?  When you are doing the Lord’s work it is His Church who is called to come alongside you!

The typical answer?  “If we help with your adoption then all the members in our congregation will want help with their adoptions.”  People were denied on this and other shallow grounds repeatedly and consistently… If we help you, we’ll have to help other people too.  Even just asking for a space to use for a rummage sale over the weekend, many people were turned away!  How tragic and difficult, that God’s own people do not realize what it is we are here to do.

And so you can imagine my uncertainty as our time at seminary was coming to a close and Jake was preparing to take a call to serve as the pastor of a church.  We had already seen Juri’s picture and had been praying over it, Jake had been given the dream that was a huge confirmation we should move forward but… would it even be possible?  I told a few of my adoption friends about our hopes, but they seemed hesitant to be optimistic knowing our situation and the difficulty with congregations that others had experienced.

As we received our call and began preparing to move I began praying more specifically, “God you know how much I would love to adopt this boy, but if this is Your Will You need to make it happen.  You need to prepare the congregation’s hearts somehow for the idea of international adoption, because for most it’s not even on the radar.  And if they are ready for something like this You have to make it come up somehow in the topic of conversation, because it’s not something we can push on them.”

I felt confident that these things were what we would need in order to move forward.  All the advice was to wait at least a year or two before doing anything so drastic.  (Except for one sweet, adoptive mom and Lutheran pastor’s wife who said “Just wait and see what happens.”  And whose very encouraging story gave me hope that it could even be done!)  I could not move into a church’s parsonage my husband’s first year of ministry and just start advocating for international special-needs adoption right off the bat.  I can have a very decisive personality, which isn’t always a good thing!  We couldn’t make the first move.  We would have to wait.

Fast forward a few weeks and we were moving in to our new home.  Several people from our congregation came to help out.  As we were standing on the front porch of our new home, my mother-in-law and I were introducing ourselves to a lady, who happens to now be a dear friend.  She was pointing out to us their son, saying offhand “He was adopted from Ukraine.”  My mom and I were both surprised (she didn’t know about Juri yet, but she did know of my passion for adoption) and she replied “Well, you two will have a lot to talk about!”  And walked away.

To alleviate the very confused look on my new friend’s face, I began to explain to her about the advocacy work we had done with Reece’s Rainbow and how many of the children I had loved from afar were from that country, etc.  We had a great conversation.  The next day was Sunday and we met two more families  from our congregation who had adopted (one from Guatemala and one domestically).  I talked with the other family more about their adoption, she had gone to the Reece’s Rainbow site and was gushing over how lovely all the children were.

And I just sat there.  Amazed, in wondrous awe of the work that God was doing.  He was opening a door.  A door that no one could have opened but Him.  He continued to work miracles and love into the hearts of our congregation who have been more supportive, loving, understanding and amazing then any Church family I have ever heard of.  What beautiful souls they are.  What a great and marvelous work God has done.  We are blessed beyond words and could not be more thankful.

Moving Right Along!

So where do I even begin with this crazy whirlwind of a day… at the beginning you say?  Ok, that makes sense I suppose.

Tossed and turned on the overnight train again.  Ready to be done with those!  I’m actually counting down the time we have left by overnight train rides, only two more!  Woohoo!!  The kids slept many more hours than we did, per the usual, and were up bright and early at 6:00am.  Our train didn’t get in until ten so we had a good four hours of entertaining to do on not quite enough sleep.

We were informed upon arrival that we had a different apartment than the last one we were in.  Something about a landlord being asleep and not having time to get us a key… maybe?  Not sure exactly, quite a bit was lost in translation (per the usual).  So now we are completely disoriented in a city we thought we had our bearings in.  Our driver quickly pointed out a McDonald’s and left.  We were famished and I thought he said there was a grocery store down that way, the street certainly had enough shops, so took a little walk.

There were several restaurants and a nice park with a fountain, but no grocery store.  We hiked back and stopped at a little fast food place that was not McDonald’s… I don’t think we could stand another meal of that.  Ugh.  Then we went back to the apartment, I quick got ready for a visit with Hope.  No time for a shower, so I looked terrible after the night and morning.  So glad Hope doesn’t really care what I look like!

It was a short visit today.  We have never visited her in the evening before, but apparently her orphanage “closes” at five o’clock and her “nap” isn’t over until four so… itty bitty window there.  Hubby and the kids stayed back this time, it had already been such a long, cooped up day for them to spend another hour+ in the car.

Sweet girl and I had a good visit though, and it was so nice to just get some alone time with her!  Her new favorite game is laying on my lap while I bounce her and sing the sign language ABC song I know, holding her with one hand and signing with the other.  I promise I was safe!  But she just laughed hysterically the whole time and she was trying to track with my hands to watch the signs.

After the song was over I told her to say “Again” if she wanted to go again.  I prompted her a few times and got a little “ahhhh” out of her so we went again :)  I’m no speech therapist, but I figure prompting her to speak and then praising and rewarding her for vocalizing is probably a good start in teaching her to communicate through appropriate sounds (rather than just screaming).

Next I went on a quick grocery trip since I had our driver and could actually get to a store.  When I got home everyone was famished, so we decided to go to the “pizza place” which felt less than inviting, so Jake suggested the “other pizza place”.  We walked the other way on the street and came to a small building with huge stickers of pizza on the window and an arrow pointing inside.  It looked promising.  We walk in to tables surrounded by lush, exotic couches and middle eastern incense.  Hmm… perhaps we should have payed more attention to the Disney Genie sticker on the window?

We sat down (first mistake) and the lady brought us huge, elaborate menus that certainly did include pizza but this was no pizza joint.  The kids were restless and asking to eat the sugar on the table.  This was obviously too high end for restless, hungry, miniature people so we got up and left!  Totally embarrassing.

Our last ditch dinner effort was the “burger joint” we saw (different from lunch).  They even had cheese sticks!  How could you go wrong, right??  AND pizza on the menu! Score!  Well, we order to discover that the pizza was made with ketchup, not sauce.  The cheese sticks were actually fish sticks.  The Caesar Salad dressing was actually plain mayonnaise and the burger was actually a grilled chicken sandwich-type thing.  We didn’t eat much, but they thought we were trying to order chicken nuggets instead of fish sticks (thankfully) so at least the kids ate.

I still consider this a good, successful day though!  We are here in Hope’s region just waiting for our court date.  By the way, pretty please pray we get SDA approval tomorrow!!  This is the only thing not “moving right along” and we really need it!  If we don’t get our approval tomorrow we won’t be able to have court until Monday at the earliest.  That puts Juri and Zhanna Hope’s court dates at least a week apart, delaying our return home about a week.  We are so ready to come home, please pray we wake up to approval in the morning!!

While you are praying for that, also join with us in a prayer of thanksgiving for our funding!  We just received word that a grant we applied for months and months ago actually came through!  And the crazy thing is that they prayerfully determined to give us the exact amount we need to be funded after our Miles Fundraiser is finished!  Is God awesome or what!?!  Perfect love, perfect gift, perfect timing.  Thank you Jesus!

AND we only have 527 miles left to go!  That’s a little over $500 to finish funding our adoption and then we’ll get to reveal Juri’s new name to you all!  I cannot wait to finish this off, so excited to make that reveal!  We are absolutely praising God for His hand in all of this and so humbled and grateful to all of you who have come alongside us to bless our family and our new children by making this adoption possible for them.  It would not have been possible to do this on our own.  It is Christ’s Church that has kept us afloat the entire way!  We can never thank you all enough!

P.S. – Click here if you want to help us move a little closer to revealing our son’s new name!

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