The Verdict is In….

Just a few short weeks ago we met a little boy who captured our hearts forever.  This morning we sat before a judge and those whom the government has charged with his protection and care and asked that we be made his parents.  After days of feeling sick with anxiety over this milestone it came and went with little fuss or difficulty.

After less than an hour of discussion and deliberation the judge read us our verdict.  I’ll paraphrase for you…

He’s handsome…

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He’s determined…

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He loves to play and have fun…

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He is all boy…

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He’s compassionate and loving…

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He’s resilient and strong…

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Most important of all… he is our son.

A Hug for MamaPraising God today for his tender mercies, that he would grant all five us the desires of our hearts.  The desire of Jake and I to grow our family through the redemption of adoption, the desire of Evangeline and Stephen to have a new brother and the desire of Juri to be loved and cherished no matter what, for the rest of forever.  Thank you Lord for this great thing you have done!

God is Gracious… Hope

I promised all of you that when we met our matching grant (which we did!!) I would tell you the story of our daughter’s new name.  To preface, I believe that God whispers to us the names of our children… if we are listening.  If you give your child absolutely nothing else his whole life, but you give him a name, you can point him to Christ.

If his name is connected to the Lord, then whenever he hears it, it will point him heavenward.  Names are not just meant to sound cute or beautiful, but they have meanings and they tell us stories.  They provide us an intimate connection with those who bear them, evidenced by how excited so many of you are to hear the new name of the little girl you have loved so long!

I never could have guessed what either of our new children’s names would be before we came to adopt them.  Their names were literally given to us at the time God had planned, through His Church and His gracious promptings.  So… with no further delay… we are quite pleased to announce to you the name of our oldest daughter…

Zhanna Hope

Zhanna is pronounced (Zjuh-ah-nuh).  We will call her Hope for short.  Now for her story.  When I first learned what our daughter’s birth name was (months ago actually) I didn’t like it much.  I was pretty certain that we would change it, until we heard her birth family’s story.  (P.S. – Yes we did know what her name would be by the time we wrote that post if you want to have a bit of an “I see what you did there…” moment.)  Knowing that her name was given her by a loving mother and father who lost their dear child, I was much more reluctant to take away the one remaining legacy they had given her – her name.

We also learned while we were here that Hope was indeed baptized, and that we will be able to get confirmation of that.  Taking away a child’s birth name is one thing, but the name they were baptized with?  That is something else entirely.  Knowing she would not need to be baptized once we get her home, and also knowing her family history, sealed it for me.  Her name would stay.

And anyway… we were all very much getting used to the sound of it by this point.  :)  Once I knew that this would always be a part of her identity I did what any mother would do… I looked up the meaning of it!  Well, if I wasn’t convinced before I was now.  Zhanna means “God is gracious.”  It was as if God was speaking directly to my heart, for indeed there is no more perfect, succinct way to describe our girl’s life than with these three words – God is gracious.

With that settled, all we needed was a middle name for her, which came right on time shortly thereafter.  My husband’s lovely, godly, beautiful mother sent us an email the very day we were making the monumental decision on whether or not we could accept sweet Hope’s referral.  Now, before I share with you the delightful ending, let me provide a bit of background story.

JannaMy sweet mother-in-law (and I assure you she was not alone or crazy!) never had peace about adding Hope to our adoption.  We had some very difficult conversations about it, and she prayed for months, but peace about this very needy and delayed child never came for her.  We prayed that she would find peace, and we hoped it would come.

On the eve of our decision, it was certainly not far from our minds that our parents, whom we are called to honor and obey, were not on board with us adopting this girl.  It took our peace about it and made us quite uncertain.  After meeting Juri we were already unsure if we would be able to meet his needs and her needs and the needs of the two children we already have.

As much as we loved this girl we had met, we needed to be sure.  We both felt 100% that she was ours after the visit that day.  But we were not fully at peace.  And then… we checked our email.  Jake’s mom had messaged us and told us that the night before she had been looking at our little girl’s picture for an hour and praying over it.  What she said next brought tears to my eyes and still does: “I found myself thinking, “Lord, you really are The God of Hope and somehow through the lives of these little ones, especially Jana, you are going to be demonstrating just that: “I am The God of HOPE.”

She wondered if we had thought of the name Hope for our girl.  We hadn’t, but it only took us all of ten seconds to agree that it was the perfect name for her.  God has knitted our family’s hearts together, after months of tears and prayer, in His wisdom He has mercifully given us all oneness of mind and spirit.  Not only was this name a reflection of our family’s wrestling with one another and becoming closer and stronger for it, but it is also a perfect reflection of God’s love in Hope’s life and in the life of all mankind.

I titled this post “God is Gracious… Hope” and that is the story I want to tell with our daughter’s name.  Ten years ago I began dreaming of giving a little girl a home who had none.  About the same time, Hope was conceived, and she has spent all this long time alone.  Unbeknownst to either of us, we were both waiting for the culmination of God’s gracious love, waiting separately yet also together.

There were so many delays in my ability to start the adoption process, so many snags, so many days that it seemed it would never come.  When I first saw Hope, there were so many times it seemed impossible that she would come home with us, so many detours and bumps in the road.  Yet through it all I dared to hope.  I dared to pray, to beg God to give me the desire of my heart.  For He has said that He will do this.  God is gracious… and so I dared to hope.

I cannot wait to witness and share with the world the beauty of Hope’s new life, her redemption, her new birth into our family.  And as I do I pray that most of all people would see through her story that God is gracious!  Not so we can hope for things on this Earth, for truly there will be so many who never come to their earthly homes… so many whose hurts will not cease in this life… so many for whom injustice will not be corrected.  And yet even in the midst of these realities… God is gracious, and we still dare to hope.

Our daughter’s story is a miracle unfolding, a beautiful story of redemption in which God has honored me to play a role.  But her amazing story is nothing more than a reflection, a foretaste of the greater and more glorious story being told – God’s redemption for all people, for the entire world.  For He has promised to return, and when He does all the hurts will be healed, all the injustice will be corrected, all death will be turned to life and everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved!  Because we know God is faithful and we know that He is gracious we can dare to have hope in this Truth!

To all mothers who are still waiting to bring their babies home… to the mothers who have lost their children by death or tragedy… to the mothers-at-heart who so desperately want children and have been given none… to all the sick and dying… to the depressed and anxious… to all the poor and downtrodden… to the addicted and lost… to all the broken and afraid… to all who hunger and thirst and yearn for more than what they can have in this life…

May our daughter’s story bring you one precious Truth.  God is gracious… Hope!

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Meeting Our Daughter

Today we had our second visit with Janna.  The first visit was hard, not on us, but certainly on her.  They wheeled her out three different times.  Initially they tried to bring her out while we were still discussing her medical records with the doctor.  I smiled at her for a minute and our facilitator asked for her to be taken back until we were finished talking.  (Which I was grateful for because she was obviously overwhelmed by the new environment and all the strange voices!)

The next time she came out the nanny sat down on the couch next to her and said her name to try and comfort her.  She sat there holding her hand and listening for her voice and was much calmer, though her coping behaviors were still evident.  I said her name a few times and she ignored me at first, but about the third time she turned her face in a shy sort of way and giggled.  It was our first “connecting moment” and it was so sweet.

We talked to her nanny for several minutes and so someone wheeled her back down the hallway again.  Again, I was happy for that as she was not doing well while her nanny was distracted.  She needed constant reassurance or she would resort to her loud vocalizing, rocking and appearing quite distressed.   Poor sweetie.

After we finished all our conversations Jake and the kids came upstairs and they brought her out one more time to meet the whole family.  The nanny stayed by her and held her hand, talking to her the whole time, but she was already overstimulated at this point.  She could not focus on any one person and that seemed to agitate her, and she was very nervous.  We didn’t stay long.

We both felt immediately connected to her, and after meeting Janna there was no real doubt in our minds that we would bring her home, but we slept on it just to be sure.  This morning we called our facilitator with our decision and after our visit this afternoon we went to the notary office and signed the paperwork needed to begin the court process in her region.

Today’s visit went so much better.  I wasn’t expecting to see any progress after yesterday’s short meeting, but the nanny carried her out and handed her right to me.  That sort of contact kind of demanded progress!  She melted into my arms and held on super tight.  I never wanted to let go.  It was such a beautiful moment, and one I had been waiting for so long.

Evie and Stephen said hello to their new sister and then Daddy took them downstairs so she could relax a little more.  There was much less rocking and vocalizing.  Sometimes when she rocked I would start bouncing or rocking for her, which she just absolutely loved.  The best way to calm her down when she would start crying out or becoming distressed was to sing.  Singing totally relaxes her and she soaks it in.

She also loved, loved, loved skin-to-skin contact.  That was the one thing she was constantly seeking during our visit.  She loved holding hands and touching my face and hair, and when she wasn’t doing that her hand was always resting right on my chest, sometimes even under my shirt, so she could have that skin-to-skin.

That was totally fine with this Mama!  I know how important it is for babies especially to have that, and she has never had it.  I am so glad that she is seeking it out, because that sort of touch will do wonders for her not only in bonding with us but in her healing process as a whole.

I was also told she understands speech.  I called her “My sunshine” in Russian.  I also told her I was her mama and that I loved her.  When I first told her “I am your mama” she got a huge smile on her face.  I really would love to believe that she completely understood what I was saying.  And she did relax for me a little more after that.  The cynic in me thinks she was just glad to hear me speaking a familiar language… but I really hope she knows her Mama is here now.

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There is so much to say, I can’t possibly get it all down in one post!  She is such a spunky, fun girl.  She has a big personality, and it shows even now.  When I was trying to switch her from one arm to the other she tensed all of her muscles half way through (it’s a bit of a process at this point with her being so stiff) and wouldn’t let me keep going!  I stopped and looked at her and said her name in a mind-your-mother tone of voice to which she just laughed!  It was so funny!  And she LOVES Evie and Stephen; we brought them in for a few minutes while I was passing Janna off to Jake for his turn.  She is so interested in them and reaches out for them all the time.

Stephen is still pretty reserved around her, he holds her hand and just kind of stares.  But Evangeline wants to play and chat and she bounces around.  Janna is obviously wanting to follow her and is very interested, but I can tell she also gets overwhelmed quickly by all the activity.

We had about an hour with her today, which was just about the perfect amount of time.  We will try to lengthen our daily visit as she gets more comfortable with all the attention.  I would love to do two visits a day, but the orphanage is far away so driving there is pretty expensive and I think we’ll be able to do the bonding we need to do before Gotcha Day with just one.  Ok I will stop rambling now.  I was just so excited to share her with everyone!  She is such a priceless treasure!!

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