Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Burpees, ABI, Dossier, Biometrics

First of all I want to publically thank the people at Crossfit Innovations in Northport, AL for the burpee-a-thon this weekend. You guys are amazing.... my arms, legs, chest, ribs, etc. STILL feel the pain from the 163 burpees I did... I cannot IMAGINE what you who did 300+ must be feeling! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I could never have guessed how encouraging that trip to Tuscaloosa would be!!

Second - the process.... I updated our timeline. But here are more details (probably more than you want to read... but here we go)

Ronnie has been the one to deal with official documents in this process to date. He is the details person. But yesterday, I was the one to take our applications for a "no criminal history" check to ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigations) in Montgomery. Ronnie reviewed all of our documents with me after we had them notarized last week so I at least knew which packet to give the lady. The process was a bit different than I had expected, but in about an hour, I had my papers. The last papers that I needed in order to go to the Secretary of State's office for Apostilles. I had a good friend (Samantha Hyde) with me for emotional support and organization.

I had parked a good bit away from both offices intentionally. I knew where a good parking place was. I get nervous driving in cities with one-way streets, parking issues, and buildings that aren't familiar. I also enjoy walking on nice days. So, I parked where I knew what I was doing, and we walked the 10ish blocks to ABI, and then another 5 or so blocks to the Secretary of State's office. This would stop me from being flustered from driving down a one-way street the wrong way, or missing parking places along the route, and would also let me burn some of the nervous energy in the process.

I had heard MANY stories of THIS part of the process being where mistakes get made.... I did all I could to get it right the first time.

We then walked to the Secretary of State's office, found the right door (thankfully) and finally, (app $300 later) had the packet all together!!!!

Another friend picked us up there and took us back to our car. My heart felt lighter immediately. Samantha and I sat together in the car and ordered the documents - two copies of this, one copy of that, three copies of this.... etc. We reviewed the packet three times to be sure EVERYTHING was exact. Every apostille matches the notary, every date is correct, every name is spelled EXACTLY right.

We enjoyed some Dreamland and a short visit to the river just to breathe for a minute and then headed to Bridgestone to leave that precious packet with the people that are [currently] taking it to Ukraine! WOW!!!! Our dossier (minus one form) is headed to the translator!!!!

So, this morning we got up early (again) and headed to USCIS in Birmingham. This time Ronnie had to be present as well. Our Biometrics appointment date is not for a couple of weeks, but we wanted to see if we could get in early. AND WE DID! The USCIS man got us on the list and 30 minutes later our biometrics were complete!!! WOW! That is the last appointment we have until we are in Ukraine! Everything else is "wait - and mail - and wait - and mail" The results of this today will be the final form for our dossier. The paperchase is almost complete (of course, barring any mistakes.... )

I never expected us to be here, now. We are 62 days into the process, our documentation is one form and translation away from being complete. We are 43% funded with some big fundraisers on the horizon. We have had amazing opportunities to talk with Lena lately and although we miss her horribly, we can see the process moving and that helps./

Every day is one day closer to being reunited with our daughter. Every step makes that feel less like an abstract idea, and more real.

Finally, please stay up to date on our fundraisers! We are amazed at how far we have come.... but we still have a ways to go! Pray about how you can help, and then DO IT :)

Praise be to God who has orchestrated EVERYTHING so far. And although we know there are still some big steps between here and there.... He has never lost control. Praise Him!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mom of three.

I have felt a bit behind some adoptive families at times with our bonding with Lena. Or, rather, her bond with us. Some others that we know have been blessed to have been called momma and daddy from early in the relationship. I am not sure what slowed us in this process. Our personalities? Her personality? The time it took for me to be convinced of how much I was in love with her? Just a set of crazy circumstances? Lack of communication time? Translation issues? I am not sure.

But regardless. This morning Ronnie woke at 4:09 and happened to think to check his phone. Amazingly, she sent us a message at 4:10 saying "Hi."

We talked.

I sent photos of backpacks, purses, shoes, notebooks - she told me what she needed, liked, wanted.

Ronnie asked her a lot of questions. Some more personal than we have felt the freedom to ask prior to today.

We showed her photos of Josiah and Lydia from the last few weeks - she said "our family!"

We showed her - for the first time - a couple of photos of extended family. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. (my family is pretty loud and we know we can be a bit overwhelming for first timers... I figured we should go ahead and start with introductions before she gets in country :)) HA!

She said - again - "our family."

Not long after that, maybe it was the first time she felt freedom. Or the first time our communication had gone deep enough. Maybe it was that I have only recently realized that I had not called her "daughter" in my messages.... and started that this week. I have referred to her as daughter to others.... but in my emails and texts to her, I have called her princess, sweet girl, and Lena.

Regardless, about one and a half hours into our conversation it happened. "мама я також тебе люблю"

Momma, I also love you.

Enough. My day was perfect. I am, emotionally, really mom of three.... legally, we still have a ways to go - but we have crossed yet another small - yet great - step to bonding.

We talked for three hours. Sometimes clearly, and some things I still don't understand.

I had yet to get really emotional about this whole process. Not that I haven't felt strong emotions, obviously..... but I haven't cried. Until today. About 5 hours after she got offline, I was driving, I had bought her some shoes. I have bought so many other things for her - shirts, dresses, school supplies, hair bands, make-up. But the shoes apparently got me. Today. I cried.

I cried joy tears - because she called me momma.

I cried fear tears - because I have to admit every day that nothing is for sure. (but that is true in all of life)

I cried pain tears - my daughter is halfway around the world asking for school shoes.

I cried hope tears - we are taking steps this weekend and next week towards bringing her home.

I just pulled in the parking lot - with Josiah in the back seat asking what was wrong - and I cried.

мама я також тебе люблю.

Thursday, August 22, 2013



I probably say it to my kids 400 times a day.

I HATE to hear it.

This is ironic since we are in the process that feels like unending waiting. Wait for someone else to respond, to file, to approve, to respond... hurry hurry hurry run to notary, run to bank, run to post office, run ..... and wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Wait on the Lord, and you will mount on Wings like Eagles.

I was told early in the process to try to do something every day to bring her home. This would make the RUN RUN RUN feel less stressful... and the wait. wait. wait feel shorter. I must not have paced myself well this week. I can't find anything to do to bring her home except update facebook. And you guys are probably getting tired of fundraiser reminders.

I have paint, but we are waiting to put a closet in her room.

I have clothes. They are all cleaned and ready to go in the closet.

I have a package to send to her. But that doesn't bring her home.

I tried to call. Phone is turned off.

I tried to research our case status on USCIS website - that function isn't working properly.

So, we wait.

and pray.

Lord, bless her, and keep her. Make your face to shine upon her. Bring her peace. Bring us peace. In the waiting.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

brain dump - day 57.

My list of stuff rolling in my head today. Probably not interesting, but I am posting mainly for my own record.

So, yesterday we hit the $10,000 mark in fund raising.... PRAISE GOD!!!

Today, I started reading some people's current stories of time/money spent in Ukraine and I am scared, nervous, all out panicking! I know God will provide exactly what we need... I mean look at what he has done so far - and tomorrow is the 8 week mark from when we started.

It is looking like our dossier submission will be mid-late September if nothing changes between now and then.... meaning a strong likelihood of January travel time. Ukraine in January.... not sure if I still have a coat built for that.

We are waiting on our biometrics appointments to be set. I have no clue what that is.

Every conversation I have with someone about this process I learn something new that I think I should have already known.... I often feel like I am trying to find my child in a dark room filled with an unknown number of obstacles that keep moving. I wonder if I am alone in that... or if there are other blind parents looking for kids in the dark as well.

I never knew I could miss someone like I miss Lena. I go through my days thinking. This time next year (it should be sooner than that, but my head works this way) she will be here. Will she like this lunch? I can't wait to have family photos done with 5 of us!

We have three big fundraisers coming up. Burpee-a-thon this weekend, Grace Klein family night on Sept 7, and the 5k on Sept 14.

I am a perfectionist.... I typically like to either do something perfectly, or not try at all. This process is really pushing me on that. Some things (paperwork) have to be done perfectly every.single.time. Other things, (fundraisers) I want to be perfect, but it is tough to make that happen!

If there is one thing I have learned so far - it is that there is absolutely NOTHING in my control.... and NOTHING out of God's control. and for that, I am thankful.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

School supplies list

We are sending a box of school supplies to Lena's orphanage on aug 26. Her are some things they need:

school supply list

Watercolor paints 26 pc.
Clay 20 pcs.
Paper color 30 sets
21 pcs drawing instruments. (I think this is talking about protractor sets?)
Pens ribbed 50.

Diaries 40.
A4 paper packing 2.... ? Does anyone know what this means? 
A set of 15 brushes sets
Paper for drawing sets 21 set
Eraser 10 pcs.
Colored Pencils 10 sets

Notebooks in the box 200 pcs.
Notebooks 36 sheets line 100 pieces.
Notebooks 36 sheets 100pcs
Notebooks 48 sheets 100 pcs 
Notebooks 24 sheets 100 pcs 
Notebooks 24 sheets line 100 pieces.
Notebooks 98 sheets 100 pcs.

We can also collect some money to send over as well.... if you would rather give to the orphanage to buy some school supplies that is fine as well. The truth is that the money goes a lot further there than it does here.... but I know some people just like to do the shopping :) so, whatever works for you. However YOU want to bless others!
You can contact me at bringinglenahome@gmail.com to tell me what you can help with, and we can figure out how to get it to us.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Missing her.

This is my third attempt to write this blog. I am struggling with some emotions this week. 

First, We are thrilled to be moving on to phase two. Each phase has multiple steps, but grouping everything according to which organization or agency that we will deal with it looks kinda like this:

Phase 1- homestudy COMPLETE! 
Phase 2 - USCIS application and biometrics
Phase 3 - dossier translation and submission 
Phase 4 - travel to Ukraine! Sda appointments, courts, passports, etc.

But I think I have spent too much time looking at other timelines this week. Right now we are looking at - best case scenarios- January travel time. Which is fine, better than what some have to deal with, but January still feels so far away in my heart! 

We got good news yesterday that Lena doesn't have to go back to a camp like we thought she would, but this morning, I tried to call her phone and I couldn't get the call to go through.... Even worse than that, I can't understand the automated message..... So, we are waiting to find out if she just has it turned off, if she is out of money on it, or if there is a problem.... Regardless, I was really wanting to talk to her today to see if there is anything she wants in her next package..... And just to hear her sweet voice. 

It is a tough position right now. My heart is just as in love with Lena now as it was with Josiah and Lydia when I was pregnant with them. Emotionally I am fully in love with her. The difference for me is that when I was pregnant, while I was never fully in control (of course God creates life and forms bodies.... Etc) I was at least aware of how I felt and therefore how they seemed to be doing while we were waiting. Each kick renewed my heart that baby was growing... I cold drink some orange juice if I ever needed to feel some kicks and it would wake them up every time! 

With adoption, there are days of no news and no contact. There are other people making decisions for Lena. I have no say in her nutrition, her protection, her life. The trust that I have to place in knowing that God loves Lena even more than I do and will keep her in His plan. On days when I want to have contact but can't get to her, this is especially hard. My head knows that God is in control and His timing is better than my plan..... My heart struggles to rest in that knowledge at times. 

So. We wait. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Our timeline

Watching God open the doors one day at a time

June 23. Lena returns to Ukraine
June 26. Lena accepts our offer of adoption
June 27. Contact made to social worker
July 3. Fingerprints taken
July 5. Fingerprints mailed
July 6. All homestudy documents are complete
July 15. Family medical physical
July 16. Bake sale raises $408
July 18. Ronnie's FBI and ABI clearance completed
July 22. We learn that Julia's FBI and ABI clearance has to be run manually
July 23. Home study visit
July 26. All state clearances are complete (we had to be cleared in every state we have lived in since age 18)
August 2. Medical paperwork complete and notarized
August 2 and 3. Yard sale raises $1400
August 8. Julia's FBI and ABI clearance completed and final draft of home study approved.
August 9. We got to talk to Lena on the phone!! 
August 12 homestudy final draft received - and i600a form mailed to Texas! 
August 13. USPS tracking says that the package was delivered and signed for at USCIS.
August 15 USCIS text/email verification that i600a was filed.
August 23 notarizarion of dossier except i171
August 24 biometrics appointment confirmation received in the mail.
August 26 ABI "no criminal history" docs acquired/Dossier apostilled and delivered to friend traveling to Ukraine to begin translation (without 171h doc)
August 27 Biometrics completed - 2 weeks early!
September 3 - our i600a officially has a case worker! usually only a week or so until we get our precious form!
September 4 - WE ARE APPROVED by USCIS! Now we just wait 7-10 days for the 171 form!!
September 9 - I-171H form RECEIVED IN THE MAIL! We now have ALL the paperwork to submit to Ukraine!!
September 10 - dossier documents FedEx'd to Ukraine. Estimated arrival Sept 17.
September 16 - our documents have all been received in the Ukraine.
September 24 - Dossier Submitted to SDA in Kiev!!!
October 21 - a generous friend has given me a ticket to travel to see Lena on her birthday! 
October 30 - official notification that our dossier is APPROVED!! 
November 7 - official notification of our SDA appointment date! December 4!!!! 
November 19 - I arrive to celebrate her birthday! 
December 1 - the family arrives in Ukraine
December 4 - SDA appointment. Notified that she was not available for adoption until Dec 9.
December 9 - second SDA
December 10 - referral picked up
December 11 - social worker meeting goes well, expect papers to be good tomorrow
December 12 - notice that two papers are missing from her file
December 13 - mail to courts requesting papers
December 18 - drive to one court to pick up paper, also stop and get other missing documents from a family member. Still missing one document.
December 20 - calls to social worker for missing paper go nowhere. 
December 24 - missing paper appears.... By miracle
December 26 - go to social worker to deliver papers
December 27 - file papers with SDA, told that one paper was wrong, one paper had two incorrect words and one paper was missing. File with court. Expect court January 10.
December 30 - re attempt to file papers. We were told that they would Accept the one with two incorrect words from an email. The expectation is that we will have approval on January 8, after holidays, and judge expects court on jan 10. 
December 31 - one last correction of a date made to one paper
January 1-7 Christmas holidays at SDA
January 8 - go to pick up papers. New person reviewing, new problem with paper. Email isn't acceptable, after all, need stamped paper.
January 9-10 - expect paper in the mail, it should have been sent January 1, apparently. We ask if we can drive to get it, nope.
January 11 - we can drive to get the paper, now it is Saturday, nothing can be done until Monday. 
January 13 - resubmit one more time, we had been told our packet is ready, and will be signed immediately upon recieving the actual document instead of the email. This is apparently not true. Papers can be checked on again Friday, January 17 - but it will likely take 10 days before anyone can sign.
January 17 - papers still not ready. Call back Monday. 
January 20 - we have to fly to the US. We will leave before she can call the SDA. Ronnie has limited vacation days left..... We will wait for court in the US. 
January 27 - court date assigned!
January 28-29 - travel back to Ukraine
January 31 - court date.... Delayed because someone didn't show up
February 3 - new court date... Court happened! Adoption granted! 
February 14 - gotcha date! We have our papers! She is ours! Birth certificate ordered and received
February 18 - passport ordered and tax ID requested
February 19 - tax ID received
February 23 - told that the passport file was lost, we have to come back and try again. 
February 27 - passport received, Medicals completed, visa received. We are going home! 
February 28 - finally home! 

Ss card received in April after having to request it and reapply in person.
Certificate of citizenship received in May. 
Registered with Ukrainian embassy in May.
American birth certificate applied for and received in May. 
To pray about:::
The current in-country appointment and court timeline in the Ukraine is a bit slower than it was just a couple months ago. There are several reasons behind this that I don't completely understand, but pray that the timeline speeds up, and that we have wisdom about how to best go about the time there. Some families stay the full time, some make multiple trips, some have the full family there for part of the time and some come home leaving others to complete the adoption. 

Pray for our communication with Lena, that we can express to her what she needs to know about the process. 

Pray that our time with Josiah and Lydia is always spent well. With everything in full upheaval, we want to be sure we give focus to them and not miss important days with each of them while we go through this emotionally draining, time consuming process. 

God has led us this far, we know He will continue. Pray we hear His voice and make our decisions according to His plan.

Cell phone

We sent her a cell phone and she got it this week. Today I got a call from Ronnie and he basically said "I don't care if it just cost $300. I just got to talk to my daughter!" 

We worked it out for me to call too so I could talk to her and so Josiah and Lydia could talk as well. I prepaid Skype - pretty sure it was $15..... Less than Ronnie's $300 ha!(his was really only $12, but the truth is that it just didn't matter)  We will be buying calling cards tonight, Because I promised to call her back tomorrow.....

We won't always call daily, although I would love to.... But right now we need some communication. Ronnie's Russian classes will be coming in handy - and hopefully her English lessons can start soon:) 

My heart raced on the phone with her. I had a million questions for her and no way to even remember which ones to ask. Even if I could have remembered what I wanted to say, I don't have a way to say it. I guess my Ukrainian practice will ramp up as well! She said she is good. She misses us. She loves Lydia and Josiah. She loves me. It was priceless..... I talked to my daughter. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

я тебе дуже люблю

я тебе дуже люблю

Do you know what that says? 

I knew immediately when I saw it. For, I have typed those four words into our messenger many, many, many times. I have never received it from the other side. Until today. 

Lena and I were chatting and I was trying to get some information from her. When we couldn't seem to get the communication after I asked a question 3 times and she sent three answers that just didn't match my question..... We seemed to both be frustrated so I sent a funny looking self- pic while taking a walk.... and then that beautiful phrase appeared on the screen, it translates to "I love you very much" 

My heart jumped. It no longer matters that we never got the communication clear. That I still don't have an answer to the question I was trying to ask. She loves me. That is enough. I remember when Josiah started saying "I love you." I remember when Lydia started returning kisses (those awesome baby slobbery open-mouth kisses)..... And now I am so excited to read "I love you very much" on a screen. 

Ronnie had someone start to tell him how "complicated" life was about to be for us this weekend. With an eyebrow cocked to one side, she glanced at Lydia and asked how old she was.. Watched as Josiah ran to play and asked his age as well.... Then said - with a bit of sarcastic laughter in her voice "and you are getting a teenager?" Ronnie said "yes." 

She responded "your life will be complicated! Do you realize how tough this will be?" 

Ronnie started to ask her a lot of sarcastic questions, but, instead, he said "yes ma'am, it's already complicated." She laughed at him and continued with a description of how life will be soooo different, and hard, and etc. etc. 

I wonder if she walked away feeling like she had told him something that had not crossed our mind yet? Did she feel as if she had encouraged someone who is doing what they feel God has called them to? Does she know what it feels like to read something like "я тебе дуже люблю" on a screen? Has she been so unfortunate as to not have had a complicated life? 

We, like most other adoptive parents, didn't choose this for the ease of adoption. We didn't think it would be a smooth ride. But you know what else is complicated? Singleness.... and Marriage. And pregnancy. Trust me, having two miscarriages was complicated! And one biological child, or two biological children..... Or any number of biological children for that matter. And parents, siblings, family and friendships. Not always easy. Life. life should be complicated, for anytime you decide to love, the risk of complication comes along with it. Love is amazing. Love is beautiful. Love never fails. But love is scary, for love takes risk. Love - takes a part of your heart and trusts it to someone with no guarantees that they will care for it as you want them to. But love is what we are commanded to do. Love is what He did for us. Love is Christ. 

Love doesn't always look the same for everyone. Love can be shown differently in different cultures and in different relationships, but it is unmistakable. 

It doesn't make sense to some that we can love a precious girl that we have known for such a short time. 

It doesn't make sense that a pregnant mother can love the child when the only evidence is two lines on a  test stick. 

It doesn't make sense that Christ loved us when we didn't yet love Him, and He gave His life. 

So, love, it seems, is always complicated, usually doesn't make sense and yet is commanded. We see ourselves as privileged to be chosen by God to be the parents of Josiah, Lydia and soon, Lena. We are thrilled that our family is complicated! Christ, in his commandment to love others as you love yourself, guaranteed that we would live complicated lives. 

How bored would we be without some complication?? 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yard sale-lemonade-tax free.

What an amazing weekend! We had our yard sale, the first one, and raised - in total- over $1400. Absolutely unbelievable. The highest single priced item was a $60 dresser! We had some other $40-$50 items, but most of the money came from the ridiculous amount of stuff that was donated! We are seriously blessed to watch God put together nickels, dimes and quarters to end up with massive amounts of money to bring our daughter home! Thank you to everyone who helped, donated, bought, sold, etc. etc. You guys are doing amazing work to bring her home. It was a long weekend, and due to circumstances beyond our control, Ronnie was unable to be here for most of it. We didn't know he would be out of town until the night before it started.... So, without helpers, I would have been lost! 

We also had a lemonade stand sponsored by my sister and her daughter and friend. They had so many people giving to the lemonade stand! A couple of teenagers came and bought lemonade from them just to buy lemonade from a "real" stand "like in the movies!" 

Our t-shirt order is going great! We will order t-shirts this week, it is primarily going to be pre-orders only, so if you need one, let me know ASAP! 

We went to buy some gifts tonight for a kid we are sending Christmas presents to in Haiti. It is tax free weekend in Alabama, so we got school supply stuff to go in the bag. While there, we decided to go ahead and think through items that Lena may need for school supplies too.... That made it all feel more real than pretty much anything else in the last months. We are slowly gathering clothes for her, and that is as much fun as getting newborn clothes when I have been pregnant.... But school supplies are real. At least it seemed real tonight.... And that makes my heart happy. And terrified. Ha! 

We are going to be adding some new fundraisers soon! Keep an eye on the upcoming events tab on the blog to be sure you know what is going on! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Remembering - and altar building.

Many times in the old testament there are references to altar building. Usually there are statements around the act of building an altar that say something along the lines of "they remembered God, and they built an altar" or "they remembered the faithfulness of God, and there they built an altar"

Today, in my attempts to clean out some emails, I found a folder of my emails from a year of my life, that, up until this year, was pretty much the most complex, most amazing single year of my life. It was a year that God showed faithfulness in ways I have never seen before or since. It was a year that had tough times and great times. It was a year that is the full definition of "life abundant." It was harder and more fun than anything else! It was a year that I spent as a volunteer missionary.

Now, before anyone gets crazy on me - I have had some awesome times in my marriage, and with my kids. I have had 6+ years of fun and complex times with Ronnie and loved and hated the appropriate moments.

But this was one 12 month period of intense trust in Christ in a way that I haven't needed to trust like that since then. We could discuss the fact that I should trust like that all of the time. But the truth is that I don't... I wish I did, but I don't.

I spent a year in Germany as a volunteer missionary. It was a time of highs - spending a week in Paris with German students who were studying French, and a weekend on the Mediterranean Sea with my German sister, leading people to Jesus, traveling by bike about 70% of the time. Some wonderful relationships with people that still impact my life today. Some that have sent gifts to Josiah and Lydia, some that have helped us in raising money to bring Lena home. Some that I still send and receive Happy Birthday greetings from every year. It was also a time of tough days.  A long process of learning not only a new language, but a whole new culture. A place where life has been hard in recent history, and I had to learn how to process my life outside of my American viewpoint.

As I reread my emails from that time I was pushed back to time where, similar to this, I was trusting God, and trusting people to listen to God when He prompted them. I guess that file of emails is something of altar in my email box.... a place where I can go to look back and see how faithful God was in 2004... I hope that one day, this blog will serve the same purpose.... a virtual altar of sorts, where we have listed the ways that God provided through people. A place where I can come, and where you can come, to remember the faithfulness of God. Even, a place where Lena comes to see the faithfulness of God to bring her home to us.  

There are already so many moments where we have stepped back and seen God at work in major ways. There are also some moments of severe frustration. Delays, emotions, lack of communication with Lena, etc. We have had to, even this week, step back, sit down, bow our heads and our hearts and simple say "God, you have got to take care of this.... we can't, but you can." We are working hard.... but we know that without Him, this is all an exercise in futility. So, here we come, to BlogSpot, to build this altar, where we consistently put our trust in Him.... publically... and push on to bring our daughter home.

Thanks for your support - for helping us build this altar in worship of our Father.