Thursday, September 18, 2014

8 months home

I began this post a month ago, so now I have edited a few things, but the basics are the same. 

It's been 8 months and a few days since Elianna landed back on US soil as an American. I can hardly believe it has been that long, and yet, at times, it just feels like she was always a part of us. Time is funny that way, I guess. A year ago, we were counting down the days until I would leave to visit on her birthday and waiting on that all important sda date to start the in-country process. Feels like forever. There was so much we would learn in the following months. And there is so much we are still learning.

She is doing well. Keep praying as we navigate the healing of a precious heart and this first year as being parents of a teen girl. She is doing great in school when she tries and seems to be getting the hang of being homeschooled. She is in a Bible study on Monday mornings and is on the homeschool debate team on Wednesdays. She will be debating (as part of a two-person team) Wednesday about the topic of capital punishment. Her team has own one debate on this topic and has lost one debate on this topic. Her English is amazing and her relationships are blooming. 

The teachers God has provided at church are amazing and doing such a wonderful job with helping us point her more to Jesus...and get this, her small group leader at church was raised as a foster kid! And the placement into that group was "random." (Obviously God had a hand there) 

Josiah and Lydia love her dearly and she has taught them and loved on them so much. 

I watch her across the room in church some mornings. She usually sits with friends. As we sing things like "Yahweh! Yahweh!" And she sings it out, the tears come to my eyes. Adoption is such a picture of what has happened to us as believers of Christ. Isn't it? What a mirror has been put on my own life in these 8 months... Today she helped with 5 year old kids. She walked out singing "father Abraham had many sons...... Etc." A part of every American Sunday school kid's basics that she didn't have as a kid.  I am so thankful for a church that not only teaches her to learn to be a godly kid, but one that also teaches from early ages what it means to serve. Once a month she helps teach kindergartners about Jesus. Precious. 

All that said, it hasn't been easy. We never thought it would be. Some days are awesome and everything we all dreamed. Some days are downright hard. Some times we live in the moments we have now and sometimes we deal with damage done by others in her past... Or even with the damage created by the loss of her country, her home and her language. Sometimes she speaks and wisdom from beyond her years comes tumbling out and sometimes she asks questions that should have been answered by a mom or dad when she was a small child. Some of life's toughest lessons have been taught to her the hard way and other basics like thankfulness, honesty and unconditional love are brand new concepts. 

I often find itself watching her and feeling sorry for those people who hurt her in the past and therefore they had no chance of knowing the blessing this girl brings to us. I then turn and I am so thankful for the gift that she is to our family. Our lives are fuller, our home more exciting and our love so much greater than if we had never been chosen as her family. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How are we? 13 week update

We have now been home longer than I was in Ukraine. 13 weeks there, 13 weeks and 5 days now at home. 

We are asked pretty regularly how we are doing. Or how Elianna is adapting to life in America. So, I will do what I can to answer the question.

She is doing great, she is making friends. She loves going to church and really has joined right in with our extended family. I often forget that she wasn't always here. She loves Josiah and Lydia very much and is constantly coming up with fun things to do with them. She folds origami boats, fills the kiddie pool with water and races boats with Josiah. She builds forts in the backyard and "cooks" with Lydia. She plays on the slip 'n' slide with Josiah, but my favorite thing there is the watch her slide Lydia Cross the plastic slide.... She is so careful, and Lydia just squeals! She absolutely loves swimming and is pretty disappointed on days we can't get down the street to the pool. 

Her English is absolutely amazing. She has learned so quickly. I am beyond impressed with what she says, what she reads, and what she understands. 

There are tough times, too. She misses Ukraine. She doesn't like to be asked how "she likes living in America" because some days she likes it a lot. And some days it is too hot. And some days, she is just missing friends. She doesn't like to disappoint people though, so she gives her "American answer" sometimes even when she doesn't want to. I hate that she is learning that already. There really is something refreshing about the honesty of Ukrainian children. 

She loves to listen to music. She likes to dance. She is extremely creative and comes up with fun games regularly. 

For us as a family, we are constantly learning, adjusting, praying, talking, asking and loving. Sometimes, due to the fact that she is so awesome, we forget the past that got her here. Sometimes we have to remember that we can't expect her to know what she was never taught. Sometimes we have to be strong when we want to be gentle. Sometimes gentleness is required where we might normally be strong with our biological children.

She put Lydia's hair in a ponytail last week. As she finished, she looked a bit serious as she walked away. She has a biological brother and sister who are a bit older than Josiah and Lydia. She was separated from them a long time ago. She told me later that as she fixed Lydia's hair, a memory of fixing her sister's hair flashed back. I was able tell for a moment, her mind had taken a trip to years back. Fixing another little girl's ponytail. One she loved just as dearly, and one that had been ripped from her life at no fault of her own or of her sister. I wonder how far she went with her thoughts, I'm sure she misses her sister. I wonder if she still gets as concerned for their safety as she does for Josiah and Lydia. I wonder if she wonders where they are or what they are doing. I wonder how often those flashbacks happen. 

She loves photos. She has begged to see every single photo of us in our lives. She loves looking at our story. I went to a wedding recently where tons of photos were shown of the couple growing up. One week later I was at the funeral of a sweet elderly lady with a slideshow of photos from her life growing up. In both instances, I was overwhelmed with the emotion of knowing how much she loves pictures and also with how few of her I have. I have one photo of her class in 2nd grade and then one when she was 11. There are a few from the orphanage and then what we have taken. I don't have video of her first steps, her lost teeth, her first haircut, her baby bed, her standing in the rain or playing with her babies. I wonder how much of her love for our photos stems from not having many of her own.

 I return to the lady that so directly (and brazenly) "warned" us last July that our life was going to be complicated. 

Yes ma'am. It is complicated. It is complex. There are behaviors that are not typical of a 13 year old American, there are behaviors that are associated with time in an orphanage. There are days when a moment of quiet is more than I can dream about. There are miscommunications and complications and fears and dreams. There are memories that she wants to forget, and lost moments that she wishes she could have. But there is love. And love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Her healing has begun. Not because she is in America. No, America is not her salvation. And not because she is ours. No, we fail often and we are the ones blessed to have her. Healing has begun because she knows she is loved. Because Christ came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. He did not leave her as an orphan. He sets orphans in families. It's not a cakewalk, but it is beautiful. She has brought a joy and life to our family that I can't even imagine living without now. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Have you sung the song?

The one that goes like this...

Hosanna, hosanna, 

Hosanna in the highest

One version of the song goes on to ask..... 

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdoms cause
As I walk into.. Eternity. 

My heart is broken. 

There are kids in Ukraine that are not getting what they were getting even a few weeks ago. You see, the governmental issues that are happening are causing people to tighten the reigns on government money, which is impacting orphanages. 

The one where Elianna was a few weeks ago, the one where her friends are, they are financially tight. They are being told to look for sponsors,  to cut salaries, to store food in case war does start. These kids will be first on the list to be forgotten. 

So this Easter, I heard about the "forget the frock" movement and decided to start a fundraiser for Otchiy dom orphanage, Also known as fathers house. This is Elianna's former orphanage. One of the directors went to church with us while we were there. They have around 100 kids to feed and clothe. They are working to store food now for the future political uncertainty. 

These are kids that we know personally. These are kids that shared meals, and clothes, with elianna. This is Kostya, Sasha, Misha, Luba and Sveta.... It is cute little red headed sisters named Katja and Dasha, they like to wear tutus. It is many, many more. With names, faces and stories. These will be among the first casualties of war if it comes to Ukraine. They will be the first "budget cuts."

The orphans in Crimea are already being crowded in their over-filled and underfunded orphanages to house Russian soldiers and Russian weapons and food. 

Elianna's orphanage was not in Crimea. But they are preparing.

So, is your heart broken? How broken is it? 

We are asking for a small sacrifice. We are asking that, instead of spending a lot of money on Easter clothes for your family this year, you take that money and use it to support those who are caring for Ukrainian orphans. We are joining with the "Forget the Frock" movement and we are sending our money to Otchiy Dom orphanage in Ukraine. We will have a t-shirt designed for Easter this year. We are taking pre-orders and will have them ready on April 15 so you can wear it Easter Sunday! 

Use your money to defend orphans this year. 

Email us at
Bringinglenahome @ gmail (dot) com 
To order your t-shirt.

Thank you. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

We are coming home!

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

We are coming home! The above lyrics are by Phillip Phillips in a song called "home." The song we played while driving to drop off the dossier in August, the song was played while we painted the room pink. It played while we were filing more papers, filling packages to be mailed, monogramming birthday gifts. 

I had no clue how unfamiliar the "road" would be..... But how grateful I am that we followed it. 

So, here is how it all went down today.

Today started with us doing what we do best. We waited.

At 12, our taxi came to get us, we drove to the passport office.

12:30 we call and she says it will probably be closer to 2 or 2:15 before we get the passport
12:45 arrive at passport office
1:15 passport worker calls and asks where we are, we are in the lobby she says to give her 10 minutes
1:22 passport is ready. I go in and with an extremely shaky hand, I sign two documents and we grab the passport and leave.
1:25 Elianna jumps and squeals out side the passport office and in my excitement, I try to get in the wrong car
I begin to fill out embassy forms online while in the taxi and continue until I am sitting in the medical office
1:50 we pull up at medical office
2:00 we find out that the USA worker isn't in the office, the first three workers that come by do not know anything about where she is, or when she will be back. 
2:15 still no worker. I begin to panic
2:20 she arrives, takes our passport and receipt from previous payment and closes her door. 
2:33 we get the medical packet
2:42 we are back at our car and headed to embassy, I email embassy and tell them my forms have been filed and we are on the way, they say they are waiting but we need to be there by 3
2:58 we are at the embassy. 
3:00 walking into embassy, the guards aren't sure what we are doing, I say they are expecting us, we are adopting.. They make a call, we are allowed in.
3:44 after three interviews and wait time... I'm finally handed what we need. A brown envelope and our passport with a visa! I check for mistakes, praying I can read with my tear filled eyes and shaky hands. Her name is right, her numbers are right. We have it! I try to hand it back through the window in my nerves, the lady laughs and says "that's yours now." 
3:50 I attempt to contain Elianna as we leave so she doesn't take off histerically running through the embassy... We go take the picture and get in the taxi squealing! 

And that's it. Seems so simple to type up..... Seemed so crazy to go through it. Like it was all a dream. God definitely provided today. And praise Jesus we are going HOME! 

Before most of you go to sleep tonight, we will have already begun our journey! 

We couldn't have done this without the support of many many many people..... Prayers have sustained us. To God be the glory, this is his story.... His picture to have painted.... It hasn't been an easy fairy tale... It won't be any more of a fairy tale in the future. But my heart has changed, my faith has been tested. I am not the same girl that came to this beautiful country.... I still don't understand why the 6-8 week process took us 13 weeks instead.... But God is faithful. And that hasn't changed. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Maybe, tomorrow

I was just talking to friends this morning about the fact that there are only about two words that I knew in Ukrainian before I got here. 

Може завтра

Maybe, tomorrow.

These two words have haunted me for 87 days now..... 

We heard it one more time today. 

There is at least hope for traveling Friday. We keep our eyes on Jesus. It's going to be tight... But it is not yet impossible.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Слава України


I realized it today. With tears, while riding in a marshrutka.

Prior to coming to Ukraine, I read a few posts from other adoptive families at times complaining about the process, the governments, the delays and the cities. I asked God, before I ever came to show me how to love this country. I didn't want to leave angry at the country. I am bringing a piece of this culture into my family. I want to love. I thought I was asking to enjoy Borsch and Veriniky... (And I do) To learn marshrutkas, trains and metros. 

I have now been here through this revolution. I was here on November 21 when the EU document was rejected. I was arriving with my husband and two small children (and a friend) on December 1 when the violent attacks first happened on the protestors. I was here still on December 10, 17 and January 16 when the new laws were written. I walked the streets of EuroMaidan through this... My children have had their photo taken on Maidan. We have been watching, observing and even at times wanting to be a part of it. I heard the people sing. The songs of Les Mis echoing in my head..... "We will not be slaves again." But I saw myself as an outsider, an observer. Because I am not permanently here. It is not my home, not my battle, not my fight. 

I returned to Kiev after a week in the US on January 28. I was in a taxi in Kiev on February 18, and 19 as the rumors were that the war had begun. People were being killed. I was inconvenienced by the metro shutdown. I was delayed by military roadblocks. I suddenly wanted out of here more than ever before. I realized that this American girl is a big chicken. 

 I have had comments made by people who can't comprehend our delays. We are in Kiev, it shouldn't take 13 weeks. I have looked for ways to place blame for our delays, but they are so widespread that there is no one person to blame. I have prayed for speed, for relief, for process. 

And then, I have heard the stories of Ukrainians. Those who live in this delay and corruption constantly. Those who are not shocked by the corruption I have seen. Those who's very lives deal with this often, weekly, daily. 

For the last two days I have watched from the village I call my temporary home as people in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, and other cities fought, died, celebrated and mourned. I realized that my minor inconveniences these months are nothing compared to what the people are fighting for. They dream to be free. It is so much more than simply a desire for fast process. They fight for freedom. They are heroes. 

Today I am watching as a government is being rebuilt. It hasn't been a clean process. It hasn't been easy by any stretch. People have died. Men and women, old and young. They have died to try to obtain for their children the things that I take for granted and honestly, came to expect when I arrived in Ukraine. They are dying to fight corruption. They have died for others. Many of These are not military, not trained fighters. They are moms and dads, grandfathers and grandsons. They are businessmen, doctors, students and factory workers. They have died for their freedom. 

This began in November as a general protest against a turn eastward.... But it is no longer that. It is now a protest against the corruption that has infiltrated this country. It is a protest against the mentality that has delayed my process on multiple occasions. I will be clear, It is not for me that they fight.... But I have tasted and experienced a small portion of what they are protesting. I have waited weeks and months.... They live here and battle this for years and decades. 

The people have maintained their own peace. They have captured their attackers, police, but they have not returned the torture. They have not Killed those that were captured. They have stopped them, held them.... Even arrested. But have not harmed them. I listened to speeches given to the people that from this point they should seek justice, not revenge. They clean up the fire stained square that has become a symbol of patriotism to the people. Sweeping and scrubbing to make the Maidan beautiful again. While cleaning they mourn the heroes that gave their lives for many.

The people tell stories of being captured by the police being beaten, having their mouths sewn shut and bruises across their body. They have been called names, been crucified and have had body parts cut off. They have been humiliated and stripped of clothing in sub-freezing temperatures. They stood as trained snipers picked them off from rooftops one at a time. The government then had to create roadblocks and stop trains.... Why? Not because these labeled 'terrorists' would leave, but Because they feared more people would come join the protest. They know how strong the movement is and they needed to stop more people from coming. The people were not afraid of what was happening, they were coming. The night after the snipers shot 75 people from rooftops, there were reported to be 350,000 people in the square. The people.... They came to defend their freedom. Their weapons were rocks, Molotov cocktails and burning tires. They faced high powered rifles, handguns and grenades. Yet, they came to fight.

Many of the government leaders are fleeing. They are showing cowardice in the face of having consequences for what they have done. 

So, as I examine myself, this is what has happened to me. I love the people. I am amazed by their resilience, their passion, their restraint and discipline. This is, for me, what I came for. I didn't know a revolution was coming. I didn't know the process would take 13 weeks. I only knew I was coming for my daughter. I am not searching for fame or honor. It is not my story. I am honored to have been able to experience this. I am humbled by the opportunity to take a beautiful daughter of this country into my home. I am embarrassed by my own selfishness, panic and fear when so many were running to offer their own lives. 

The people of Ukraine are strong. 

My dear Ukraine, it is a small token I know, but I am proud of you. I came wanting to love you and I do. I didn't know how much I would love you.... And you have not made my path easy, but you have taught me much and I am amazed at what you have accomplished. You have a long road in front of you. There are possibly more battles, there are definitely many choices to be made and many days of progress... But now, I believe you will take the high road. You will be stronger for what you have accomplished. I respect you and will continue to pray for you. Last night I heard you give glory to God as you thanked Him for answering your prayers. If your eyes stay on Him, you will be a shining example to the world. 

Слава України!!!! 

Friday, February 21, 2014


The tears flow freely these days. I want to go home and I want to take my daughter with me. 

In the middle of a country torn by a revolution, yes I have opinions, but no, they don't matter. I cannot help. I would, but I cannot. If I were here simply to visit, I would do what I could, but I am not. I am here to get my daughter and to reunite her with the rest of our family. I keep my eyes on that goal as I walk the streets of a revolution. 

My two at home climb into daddy's lap and ask when mommy and Elianna will be home. He can't answer. 

Elianna grabs my hand and asks when we go to america. I have no answer. 

The information is mixed. One family gets a passport, another says none have been printed in a week. One person says state offices are open, and other says they are closed. No one can tell me when or if we will have the passport. Prayers have been said, politicians called, emails sent and conversations had. And I still sit here, watching the clock tick, wondering when I will ever come home again. My heart breaks.

My heart breaks for my two precious babies and my newest tender hearted child who doesn't completely understand why the other families can go home, but we can't. How do I answer! I don't know either. I have three children then that do not understand why we aren't together..... And the reason they don't know, is because I don't know either. 

I can't figure out what lesson I should learn. I struggle with Gods timing type of answers because they seem so simple and this is just so hard. How can it be God's will for my family to be separated for so long? For my daughter to continue in limbo? For my babies to not have their mom for over 3 weeks? I know I can't earn my favor with God.... And yet I find my self asking did I pray the right words? At the right time? Did I follow the right steps? 

How can prayer after prayer be answered with "not yet?" And how long can I handle it?

I cried for hours today. I wept. My heart broken in pieces. There are comments made of courage and strength. I have none. I am afraid. I am hurting. 82 days now..... No sign of the end. And this was supposed to be the easy part. Everything is done. We have all the stamps, we have chased down every scrap of paper, we have cleared everything possible..... 

The irony that hits now, is this. For every other delay, we were wishing for a computer system that could push information quicker.... For a way to send electronic information so we didn't have to drive for hours or wait on the post office.... Now, for the first time in three months, it is a computer that we need.... And it is down. 

I had to send the email requesting to move our plane tickets. Again. That hurt. 

I have no more words.