Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Times missed

I am reading a book while I'm here in country for parenting adopted adolescents. It has had a wealth of information and things for me to think about... One of the recent chapters was dealing with letting go at 18ish. Something every parent deals with whether adoptive or biological. 

Today a rush of tears has overwhelmed me. The memories I have missed with her have seriously stabbed my heart. My mind is full of the moment of celebration the week after Josiah's first birthday when he released his grip of the couch and toddled across our living room in virginia to a specific toy. It's like it was yesterday. His first word being momma, and having to wait what seemed forever for him to finally say dada! 

Lydia's first steps are just as vivid. After pushing her pink baby stroller across the room, she wanted to get her baby, so she let to and took the steps. Falling on the padded bottom as she leaned to pick up the doll. Her unstoppable determination to learn to climb up on the couch and the wonder that I still have when she figures out a plan by herself. 

It makes me wonder, who celebrated Lena's first steps? Who was there? What was her first word? Were there photos of her first haircut? Did someone celebrate when she lost her first tooth? 

It then hit me like a ton of bricks, not only did I miss so many milestones, but I only have 5 years until she will be legally able to make her own decisions. Josiah will only be 8 and Lydia will be 6 when Lena begins to spread her wings and take flight. Will those delicate, damaged wings be repaired by then? Will they be strong? What can We do to take this precious arrow that God is placing in our quiver to help her to be prepared to fly straight? To be unafraid to take risks, to be ready to fail and then be Ready to stand on the shaky legs and try again. 5 years of unconditional love. 5 years of showing her Jesus. 5 years of permanence. 5 years of being fully accepted. Can that possibly be enough? 

I go back to so many promises... He will never leave nor forsake. He puts the orphans In families. He is not leaving her fatherless. His love never fails. He was sent to heal the broken hearted, to release captives. He gives a hope and a future. He has a plan. 

There are memories I will never have. There are Stories I have missed and moments that cannot be replaced and that hurts my heart. But I will hold to the promises and thank God for the gift of 5 years of close (sometimes bumpy) parenting... And a lifetime together... 

So, I wipe my tears, lift my head, and thank God for the future. I pray that the years of emotional famine in her life will be redeemed. Not referring to a lack of food, but a lack of love. He is God, and He answers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

While you were sleeping. Part 2.

As you guys snoozed in America this morning, I hiked with 5 orphan children and one teacher about a mile and a half to a domed structure with what seems to be a place where people gather and have outdoor fires pretty regularly. The boys had run ahead of the rest of us and when we got there, they pulled out their bb pistol and began to shoot at some glass bottles they had set up on a wall. They were pretty impressed by my skillz:) 

It wasn't long until we ran out of BBs. So, the boys went around where we had been shooting and rounded up as many of them as they could find. Loaded up, and shot again. Before we finished up, they found some of them again, and put them back in the small ziplock Baggie. 

They asked if we wanted to play contra-strike, I've never heard of it, the best I could understand after four rounds is that it's kinda like capture the flag.... Or paintball... But no flag. No gun. Just one team hiding in a large blown out brick building-like structure.... And another team trying to get into the building. You "shoot" the other team by seeing them when they don't see you, and saying "boom, Julia!" Or, whoever you were shooting." If you say it before they do, they they are dead.

When we finished the game, we went back to the orphanage and Lena and I watched a little Scrooge McDuck, you could hear the English voices, then the Russian overlay, and all text was German,,, fun times. 

I then suggested we go play with the iPad. I have a few apps that will help her learn some English. We worked on that until lunch, we ate, and then we just played other interactive games on my iPad. I am specifically using a lot of English with her while we play to try to encourage language comprehension. Otherwise, the google translate app saves us! 

Around 3:30 I was getting exhausted. I fully believe it is due partly to the emotions of the whole scenario.... Partly to the remaining jet lag.... Partly to hearing nothing but a language that I don't understand for hours..... But also, to paraphrase David platt, an orphan is only an orphan as long as they can remain nameless and faceless. Being here. Learning the kids. Knowing names. Knowing personalities. Watching their faces light up with a gift of a glow bracelet or hot wheel car. Seeing the pants too short, the boys wearing girls sweatshirts, the shoes too small. What most of these kids would give to have a family..... These kids aren't here because they are less than other kids, or because they are worse than other kids. They aren't here for any fault of their own.... Yet they are here.

And let me be clear. From what I have heard and experienced, this is one of the best orphanages around! My interaction with the teachers has clearly shown that they are very interested in the well-being of each child. These kids are not neglected, they are fed, they even have things that they call their own. Some places can't say this. Yet, these kids still are without families. The 4-5 year old girls taking naps and running downstairs in their pjs. The one precious girl, that wore her nicest Christmas dress today. Another with a dance leotard on. They are amazing. 

My walk back to the bus stop (approximately a mile) was filled with tears running down my face. I tried to hide them when I passed someone on the street, as I'm sure that makes me look more American than anything else! 

If there is anything i am learning right now. It is that a family is a priceless treasure that not everyone has access to.... 

I really think I will end the blog here. I'm really not sure how to verbalize my thoughts much further without getting preachy, or offending some. I may do that later.... But not yet. 

Pray for these children. Pray for Lena as she prepares to leave. While it isn't perfect, to her, it is still home. 

Pray for her friends that will soon see her ride off with a family. They will turn back and see that one more family came, and left them there.

Pray especially for the small ones that lena loves so dearly. They will have a very hard time comprehending what is about to happen. 

I am praying for you. Some of you that read this blog have been interested in adoption. These kids need people to be more than interested. They need people to step out and get active. 

I will stop my sermonette here.

Friday, November 22, 2013


As a family, we are about to embark on one of the most exciting, overwhelming, intense, journeys that we have faced.

I decided to take a few days to put together a list of specific details that God has worked out in this process. This post, while posting on Thanksgiving day, has been a compilation of my thoughts over a few days, so the timeline is not in any particular order, other than the order in which it came to me.

I am sure more will be added to the list as we go through the final stage of the adoption legal process.... Maybe there will be a part two to post as we return home. God will have many more miracles to perform while we are in country. 

1. Our doctor being an adoptive parent, with close ties to other Ukrainian adoptive parents.
2. Dear friends met along the way in Alabama, on Facebook, and in the Ukraine.
3. The minor glitch in our paperwork, which we believe was God's way of making sure we know two things... We didn't get it perfect, so we can't brag.... And He is in control of it all.
4. The way our sweet girl is still being protected in the orphanage while we wait for her and while she waits for us. She has clothes, heat, food and education. Not all of that is guaranteed in some places.
5. The gift of the "short" trip to be with her on her birthday.
6. The missionary home that we are living in during this process that will save money along the way! They are already providing so much emotional and logistical support here. Awesome people! 
7. My Christmas gifts being wrapped by friends while I travel.
8. Of course, all the donors and volunteers from June-present.... I can't name names, there are many of you. Over 220 separate donors.... Some donations over $750, but the largest majority are $500 and under.... It's amazing how quickly your $5, $10, and $20 donations add up to over $20,000! 
9. Ronnie's vacation days.
10. Our friend Samantha, coming to help with our two children while we have certain appointments. 
11. Missionaries that love coffee! 
12. Good chocolate.
13. Lots of hugs, eye contact, and hand holding... A good set of signals of acceptance of us.
14. An orphanage director that truly cares about the well being of her kids. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. God has protected our princess while she had to wait for us.
15. A husband that was willing to work so hard to manage my two bios so I could come have this time with Lena.
16. My mom, who was willing to watch Josiah and Lydia for 7 days! 
17. Kk, who is watched them the day I came home.
18. An English speaking church to attend.

So much to be thankful for!!! Our God answers!!! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The bus system is fun. Today I was planning to meet some American friends at a particular metro stop in the city. To get to the metro I have to take a marshrutka, aka bus. 

This is my story. 

To catch the bus, close to where I am you get somewhere in an open area where the bus can stop, when you see the correct bus coming, you wave at it like you would a taxi. You get on the bus, tell the driver where you are going, give him money, he makes change as he starts driving and you try to find a seat, or just hold on standing up. 

I need the 301 to get to town. I went to the open are where I was shown I could catch the 301 yesterday, stood, waited and saw the 301 coming. I waved. He stopped. I got on. I said the name of the metro stop I needed, he verified, gave me change, shook the ash off his cigaret and drove on. As I sat down. The card inside the bus said "306." With a list of "stops" that not only can I not read, but I am quite sure that my stop is not on the list. I panic. I have a card in my pocket with the metro map on it and I start scanning furiously for the name that matches the only metro station on the list in the front. I figure out my plan but realize that this metro station may be hard to see. I am trying to be sneaky with looking at the metro card as I am trying to look as little like a stupid tourist as possible.... A large man sits next to me. 

I, thankfully, see the metro station as we come close, stand up, the old man seems frustrated that I made him stand up. About 20 other people got off the bus, so I get off the bus. Looking around, I see nothing familiar, so I go into the tunnel leading to the metro. Get to the place where I should buy a metro ticket and suddenly realize I am in the place where I should be! I have no idea how I got there.... But apparently I was on the right bus after all. 

Turns out, sometimes the drivers drive different routes. This guy must drive both the 301 and the 306 route. He just has one sign that he turns around backwards sometimes... Not confusing at.all.

I met with friends, we found some pretty cool shopping areas for groceries and such, got a few things, ate lunch. It was time to go home. 

It costs 2 grivna to ride a bus in the city (app. .25) it costs 4 grivna to ride out of the city (.50). 

I got on a 301 bus to go home. Tell the driver I am going to Вишневе, which, if you said it like it is spelled would sound like "vizshnehveh" but is actually pronounced "vizshnOhveh" I said it 
Like it is spelled. He looked at me confused. So I tried the second pronunciation. He started yelling some Ukrainian at me. Wouldn't take my money and pointed across the street.... Still yelling as I said spaciba (thanks) and walked away. 

I crossed the street, through a tunnel, to the other side, got on the bus and tried the pronunciation that was my second choice on the other bus (vizshnOveh) He looked at me like I was crazy, so I corrected again to vizhnEhveh... He said oh, yes, vizshnOveh! I have no idea what my American accent is doing to the name of my town. But these bus drivers obviously don't understand Alabama tainted Ukrainian! 

Finally I start seeing familiar places, but the driver stopped a bit earlier than I expected to let someone off, and then skipped the stop where I thought he would stop. You cant count stops here.... Because drivers just stop when they want to, for who they want to, apparently. If no one is waving, they don't stop, but it isn't necessarily an official "stop," When they do. 

So I stood up, he starts asking me a question. I knew that if i missed my stop, I would need to get off at the grocery store that I was at yesterday. So I said "fora."  He starts asking Odin? Or dva? (One or two?) I just said Odin.... I just wanted off! So he stopped.... Finally, I walked about 1/2 mile home.

It gets dark here around 4:30. I needed to go to see Lena around 5. So, I grabbed yet another bus. To get to her orphanage I walk about a quarter mile, ride a bus for about 5 miles and just around the curve in the road (yeah real specific) I take the exit, and then walk about 1/2 mile down the road. 

When I got on the bus, two guys got on at the same time. We loaded up in the back of the bus with about 35 people and then they just passed their money to the front. I was a bit unsure of handing my cash to these complete strangers, but I handed the guy that was in front of me some grivna as well and a few minutes later my change was passed back to me. Strange. 

Then the two guys asked where I was needing to get off the bus, at least I think that's what they asked. I apparently pronounced this one wrong as well.... They corrected me. They made sure I got my change back correctly, and then checked that I got off the bus at the right time. Pretty nice guys. If I had seen them in a parking lot in the us I would have been terrified of them! 

The walk to the orphanage is dark and jagged.... But I made it safely there and got to spend good time with Lena without a translator.... It's nice to have someone to help sometimes. But sometimes it is nice to just be us... We looked at photos of the family, the house, the church. We looked at her birthday gifts from Tuesday. It was fun time together. 

The ride home was pretty uneventful. I may get the hang of is bus thing one day. Adding Josiah and Lydia to this mix will definitely be interesting in a couple of weeks... But it will be fine. 

Even with the chaos and adventure. There is such a peace about being here. I am so grateful. I miss my family at home, but these moments are precious treasures that I will always hold very dear. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

While you were sleeping. Part 1 11.20

This portion of the blog will be devoted to the fun things We do while you guys sleep in the US.

Many things remind me of my year in Germany in 2004. I don't know that the countries are that much alike, but more that this is the second time since then that I have spent time in a European country... I have been in Asia and South America in the last 10 years.... But Europe just seems to feel similar, yet oh so different.

I've been here about 24 hours now. Today's adventure was a trip to the grocery store. I had short flashbacks to my first days in Germany, when I didn't know the language, the customs of the grocery store, and was trying as hard as possible to look as little like an American as I could. (Failing miserably, I am sure)

I walked approximately 1km to the store. Trying to note markers along to way so I would remember how to get back. I also, though, was trying not to look like a tourist trying to figure out what was going on. I have my black coat and black boots, but forgot my scarf at the missionary home where I am staying. I think that gave me away. Everyone else had on either a scarf or a hat of some sort.  I had to cross over two streets..... This was much different than Germany, as here, it's pretty chaotic on the street... I had a green light to cross, yet cars were still coming very close. I kept walking, as I had seen others do. I am surprised there aren't more pedestrian injuries. 

Finding the grocery store was easy. When I got inside, though, there is a section of small lockers. I can't read the instructions. Some ladies were putting their kids bags and backpacks in the lockers. I wasn't sure if I should put my purse there or not. I didn't. I went through the turnstile. The fruits and veggies were first. Pretty easy. Grabbed some bananas. Moved on. 

Juices all have a picture on the front of what they are. I got apple/strawberry juice. Moved on. I chose my bread by the simple fact that it was already sliced. Didn't want to have to ask for it to be cut for me. Found some salami and some cheese already sliced as well. Feeling confident now, I got eggs and frozen pizza and headed to the counter. One more item, chocolate. KINDER chocolate! I haven't had it since 2004! 

At is point I am feeling like I am ok. I avoided having to talk to anyone. I have recognizable food in hand.

I knew I would need to buy a bag for my groceries. When she asked me, I just said "I don't speak Ukrainian." She showed me a bag, I nodded. This is when it gets obvious that I'm new here.

She lays the bag, open on the counter, begins to scan my items, but lays them all around the bag. I am unsure if I should bag them myself, so, I don't do anything. She quotes my price, I pay, I get change, and she starts scanning the stuff for the next guy. So now, I have to put up my change and try to bag my groceries while this guy is all up behind me. Apparently, I should have started bagging while she checked me out. She finishes with him (cigarets and beer....) and starts with guy #2 while I am still trying to get my frozen pizza in my bag. 

I still have to figure out what to do with my little shopping basket. I grab it from the floor and have to find a place for it... I see a small stack in the corner, it wasn't conveniently located. I didn't see anyone else stack theirs there.... But I did it anyway. 

I dropped my head and took my bag of groceries out. 

Other than the small issue at checkout. I feel like I was quite successful at blending on my first trip out. I didn't get yelled at, at least out loud. I may have been talked about, but if so. I didn't know it. 

Gotta learn some more basic language. Fast. 

The only other mistake I made was apparently people don't smile at each other here. I remember this in Germany.... But needed to be reminded. I passed a grandmother with a sweet 3-4 year old all bundled up (it's only about 45 degrees, cool, but not unbearable.... But she was bundled for a snowstorm! Full out ski bibs and everything!!!) I smiled at the little girl. Grandmother pulled at her hand quickly, gave me a dirty look. The child looked confused by the whole thing. Note: smiling at children you don't know makes you look like an outsider, apparently. 

So, I'm back at the house now. I have eaten my lunch and have plans to visit Lena again this afternoon. I can't wait! 

Wonder if I can get nbc.com to keep me up to date on Chicago fire? 

Some of my snacks. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life Song for Orphans

In an independent adoption such as ours, there are very few ways to allow for people to give tax deductible gifts. We are not a 501(c)3 organization and therefore as we shared way back in this post... we are committed to being responsible with the funds entrusted to us, but we could not give you any tax deductible receipts. Yet, as you now can see in the awesome thermometer to the right of the screen - you have given anyway!!

There are also not many opportunities in an independent adoption to apply for grants from organizations.  There are many wonderful organizations to help offset adoption costs, but we found only a couple that we could apply to.

LifeSong for Orphans is one of those organizations. We applied in August, just after receiving USCIS approval, and found out TODAY that we can be set up with a tax-deductible account through them. The instructions are posted below.

I have changed our donate button on the side from youcaring.com, that has served us well so far in this process, to instead, lead you to LifeSong's donation website.

We are praying that we will soon qualify for a matching grant with LifeSong for Orphans as well. We may not know that for a couple of days or even a week or so... but here is the AWESOME part! IF we get a matching grant (it could potentially be up to $4000 - but that depends on the funds they have available and we just don't know that yet) and if you have already donated through the LifeSong for Orphans account... your amount will still be matched, dollar for dollar.

For example: if you give $10 tonight, and next week sometime we find out that we get a matching grant - your $10 will then retroactively turn into a $20 credit in our account!

Unfortunately, this cannot apply to any gifts given prior to today that were given outside of the Life Song account.

So, worst case scenario, we will have immediate access to whatever funds you donate to apply towards these final costs.... AND you get a tax receipt (according to the rules stated below) and BEST case scenario, your amount MAY be doubled!!!!!!

So, here are the instructions:

You can click the link to the right of the screen and simply submit (our family name and account number should be noted: "Mayhew / #4091" ....


Checks should be payable to “Lifesong for Orphans". In the memo line put "Mayhew / #4091" to assure it goes to the correct account. Please mail to Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. Lifesong has been blessed with a partner that underwrites all U.S. administrative and fund-raising costs (TMG Foundation and other partners). That means 100% of your donation will go directly to the adoption.

Also, Lifesong requires I tell you this:

NOTE: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use. Individual donations $250 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt. Receipts for donations under $250, will gladly be sent upon request. Lifesong is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization.

In country process

We have been asked several times about what will happen, and why it takes so long in country. I just found this on another adoptive family's blog.... This is what we have coming when we land in Ukraine.

1. You were assigned an appointment date with the Department for Adoption and Protection of the Rights of the Child (DAPRC) (formerly SDA). Your first step is to attend this appointment. They will ask you a few questions and then show you information about children available for international adoption. *Note: if you have filed for a specific child, they will show you that childs information if she is available for adoption. (This is that magic date of December 4, for us.

2. The next day, you will return to the DAPRC to pick up your referral for the child which will allow you to visit her at the orphanage. You can now travel to the region of the orphanage. Depending on the location, you can take a car, bus, train, or plane.

3. There will probably be a visit to a Notary before you depart for the orphanage, to notorize some of your official documents. Your facilitator will arrange this.

4. You will arrive at the orphanage and be formally introduced to the regions Social Services person, the orphanage director and then to your child. You will have time to visit with the child (a day to several days) before you ask her if she wants to be adopted.

5. Once you commit to the child, you will meet with the regional Social Services persons (one, two, or more meetings). These officials will review your requests for adoption and issue their stamp of approval in order for you to apply for a court appointment. Your child may (depending on age) be required to write a statement saying that she wants to be adopted by you. Then your child may be taken to a local group of physicians for some medical exams.

*Note: steps 4-5 can take from 1-5 days, or more if you need more time to visit with the child before committing to her.

6. Once you receive the approval from Social Services, your facilitator will file paperwork with the DAPRC requesting a court date. There may be additional Notary fees at this point.

7. The waiting time for your court date can depend on several factors; the region, the judges schedule, holidays, etc. It is possible to only have a couple of days between the time you request the date and the time you receive the court date. But it is more likely to take several days to a week or two, or more. Be patient.

8. On the appointed date, you will attend court. Also in court will be, your facilitator, the child, the orphanage director, the Social Services person, a DAPRC representative, and other officials if necessary. There will be a judge and a jury of two or more members. You will be asked to stand and address the court. Your facilitator will assist you with the process. The judge will hear the appeal, recess for a deliberation period, and return with his decision. Upon completion of the court process, the child will officially be your son/ daughter, although she may or may not be allowed to stay with you during you 10 day waiting period.
**note: one parent is allowed to return to the US after completing the court appointment. That parent should make an appointment (by email) at the US Embassy in Kiev to sign necessary documents before departure.

9. After court, you will enter into a 10 day waiting period. During the waiting period the decision can be appealed (although this rarely happens). There is nothing else to be done during this time. Use this time to enjoy Ukraine with your new family.

10. After the 10 days, you will receive an official copy of the adoption decree and then you will begin the final processes, usually in the region of your child's birth. You will need to return to the Notary one more time.

11. Your facilitator will now file for your childs new Birth Certificate and ID number. You will apply for these based on where the child was born and where he is registered. It will probably take 3-7 days to get the returned ID number.

12. Now you will make application for a new Passport at the official passport office in the region of your childs birth (fees required). You will be required to submit a passport sized photo with your application.  It may take 2-5 days to receive your new passport. You will return to the office to pick up the passport.

13. After receiving your passport, you can go to Kiev to the Medical office to complete the travel exams (fee required). They will give you a sealed envelope after the exams.
DO NOT OPEN! You will deliver this envelope to the Embassy official.

14. You can now make your appointment for the Embassy(make appointment at the US Embassy website). You should ask them to send you a list of the required documents that you should bring with you to the appointment. This will be a two day process. On the first day you will register, deliver the appropriate documentation (sealed medical envelope, adoption decree, passport, etc), and pay the Embassy fee (fee required). On the second day you will be interviewed by an Embassy official and then receive your stamped passport and your Visa. You will also receive another sealed envelope that you should keep with you during the flight home. You will present this sealed envelope to the immigration officer at your point of entry into the USA!
**note: if one parent has returned home prior to the Embassy appointment, he/she should have signed all necessary documents at the Embassy before departure.

15. You can now go home!

This whole process, on average, takes approximately 5-8 weeks. But there are factors that could extend this time.
Ukraninan or American holidays
Judges or officials on vacation
Correcting inaccurate documentation
An appeal during waiting period (unlikly)
Adopting multiple siblings
Adopting unrelated children
Adopting children from two (or more) different regions

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Packing.... It's almost time!!

I've never been good at packing. 

9 short term international trips, 17 countries, one year long international trip, 7 months touring with a music group, another 5 weeks as a high school student in a music group. 

You would think I could pack for international trips by now.

I'm last minute-throw it in-hope we got it all-packer. 

But here I am.

A suitcase and carryon for me for 9 days, a 60ish hour turn around at home then 3-4 suitcases and carryons, and a stroller, and some baby carriers, for 5 people to go over for 6-8 weeks (we have a friend going to help with kids for the first few weeks) and 5 to come back.... (Yea!!) 

I'm so lost.

My table is full of winter gear,clothes, food, OTC meds, vitamins, and band aids. Lena's clothes have been replaced 4 times. Josiah and Lydia haven't had one thing put in the suitcase yet. My bags for the first trip are primarily full of gifts. Laundry finished today, so I'm praying I can get some clothes into the suitcase for me. 

I don't know what exactly I will do while there on the short trip other than celebrate some birthdays. (Who knew that I would ever consider 9 days in Ukraine as a "short trip.")

I'm thrilled. Extatic. Honored. Blessed. Amazed. Excited. Joyful. At peace. And..... Nervous?! 


Nervous. There are so many promises that tell me to be anxious for nothing..... To let the peace of God rule.... To give thanks in everything. But I'm just nervous. 

I have never.in.my.life felt the need to constantly reset my own heart towards the positive as much as I have these last 7 days since we got our date. 

We are still underfunded.

We still have about a million things that 'could' go wrong in the process. 

I am not 100% sure where I will be sleeping next week. 

Yet. I'm trusting. Praying. Hoping. 

Then I also think, when I start to get overwhelmed at how complicated these next few weeks will be: 

For us, it's jet lag, chaos, airplanes, children, and a couple months in a foreign land with letters that don't make sense and people who speak in ways I don't understand. Cultural differences. 

For her, In a matter of weeks, the whole world will change.permanently. She will not, for a really long time, feel comfortable in a room full of people. She will be overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in Walmart. Our traffic patterns will be strange to her. The road signs won't make sense. It will be months before she has a comfortable conversation with anyone other than possibly Lydia, who will likely learn Ukrainian as fast as Lena learns English. Last year, her orphanage got Samaritans purse boxes for Christmas. This year. She will arrive home to a house FULL of presents waiting to be opened..... Possibly it will look like more than likely the whole orphanage got last year. She will leave confidants, best friends, girls who are as close as sisters to her. She has already lost more than I will ever imagine and she is about to lose her culture. Permanently. 

When I think of it like this, I get brave. Of course I can handle a few weeks.... And so can Josiah and Lydia. Delaying Christmas won't damage their little American spirits one bit. Of course. I can travel alone where I don't know anyone. Of course we can spend a few holidays away from family. Our short price to pay is so much less than she is about to leave.

I realize she is getting a family.... And that is good for her. She will be loved. Accepted. Challenged. Chosen. Appreciated. And included. But there will also be loss. Great loss. For her, it has already likely been a harder life than any of us can imagine. And it's about to get complicated for a while. But she loves us. We love her. She trusts us and we trust her. God has chosen her for us, has protected her in so many ways.... All while we have prayed for our children to be protected. God knew she was ours before we did. He will give us all the strength and courage to take every step necessary. 

He has provided so much for us. He has used YOU to provide financially. You guys have donated to and worked in yard sales both in the scalding heat of August and the freezing cold of October. You have made scarves, baked cakes, run 5ks, and bought bracelets, t-shirts, coffee, laundry detergent, scarves, Tupperware, marykay, pampered chef, thirty one, scentsy, noonday, young living oils, and hats. Many have given just because you felt the call. Some of you did ungodly numbers of Burpees!!!  You sent school supplies to her orphanage. One made a quilt and one made a basket, to sell and raffle. You guys gave towards both. You have taken gifts to Ukraine for us. You have watched my kids and listened to our stories. You have set through praise band rehearsal and Sunday school while I panicked about craziness with Lena's phone. Some have ridden with us to prepare paperwork in Montgomery, you have stayed up late to finish notaries, sat in the car with kids so we can run into the post office. You have smiled when We were stressed, you have asked about the process at the exact right moments and have been so amazingly supportive. Few of these things brought any notoriety or spotlight from man, but all have been noticed by God. God placed each of you here in our lives. Now. For this reason. 

In this. You have been the hands of Jesus, the feet of Christ. You have shown mercy to the orphan. One precious orphan. One whose days as an orphan are now numbered. She will soon be an orphan no more. For this, God is to be praised and you are to be thanked. 

You prayers are still coveted. There is much left to do. These next weeks are the climax of this whole event. I hope to blog most of our Ukrainian adventure..... I am sure it will be a great story. You will all be made aware, also, of our return to the states, where you are more than welcome to greet us at the airport, and welcome home our newest family member. The dreams of that day are so close to being reality. 

Thank you. Praise be to God. 

Hosea 14:3
In YOU, the orphan finds mercy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Go get her!

The ding of my cell phone reporting a received email was heard only by Josiah. He told me that my phone made a noise.... There was no way to know how important that ding was! I continued to unload the dishwasher. 

The night before our facilitator had told us that he thought our date would be in the first week of December, but since he didn't have a specific date yet, I didn't allow myself to get over excited..... 

When I finally opened my email and saw the email was from our facilitator. I first thought that it must be In Relation to a question I had sent the night before. I completely overlooked the subject of the email. 

When I opened it I saw these words

"Dec 4 is our appointment date!


My heart jumped! I screamed! Finally! We will go get our girl!

I called Ronnie, he had not yet seen the email. So I got to tell him. 

By this time, Josiah and Lydia had come running, wondering why I was squealing and jumping around! I told them that we are going to get Lena soon! Josiah, wearing only his diaper at the time, turns around, gathered his milk cup and snack in his arms, and said, while walking towards the door "should we take Lena some milk and snack too?" He was ready to go get his sister!! We spent a good bit of time yesterday jumping in circles in the living room! 

I am now panicking about getting everything ready in time, but I also work best in a time crunch. So, I guess I got that. We will be having a Ukrainian Christmas this year and I could not be more excited! 

Our next steps are like this:: 

- travel to Ukraine!! Then there will be generically a 3-step process. 
Disclaimer::: This is the simplified, and error free  version of what should happen. We first meet with the SDA. This is kind of like our DHR, or child services. They will give us a referral and file on Lena. We will then go to Lena's orphanage and manage some paperwork while we wait for step 2 - our court date. That is where the judge will declare (prayerfully) that she is legally ours! (This will be 2-3 weeks after the SDA appointment). 
Once we have the court decree, there will be a 10-day wait and then It will be finalized! We can then bust her out and start step 3.... the process of getting her US documents in order. Once we have those (passport, birth certificate, medical records, etc.) we will fly home! 
We expect this, if smooth, to take approximately 6-8 weeks! 
Our prayer requests are mainly that holidays don't make too much of a mess, that Josiah and Lydia manage the travel as well as we think they will, and that our remaining funds will come in:) 
Our God has brought us so far in such a short time. We could not ask for more! 
Lena, hold on, we are coming soon! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Orphan Sunday

Today is orphan Sunday - recognized around the world in churches and among adoption organizations. My Facebook newsfeed was full of photos with quotes about orphans, videos of cartoons about orphans and pastors talking about orphans. I have friends that had adoption fundraisers today after their church recognized orphan Sunday. All day, the Christians of the world focused on orphans. Our Sunday school lesson was about adoption!  (Kinda easy for us to teach right now) 

I felt myself wondering.

Do the orphans know it? If so, I wonder how it makes them feel? Are they thankful that the Christians in the world are thinking of them today? Are they hopeful that there are families out there who will come get them after they celebrate orphan Sunday? I just wonder what it is like to be an orphan on orphan Sunday. 

I am not against orphan Sunday. Please don't take this that way. Quite the opposite. I am a big fan of orphan Sunday. I am very much a fan of anything right now that draws attention to the beautiful children that need families around the world (Ukraine in particular, right now, for obvious reasons) but also for the orphans that I have spent time with in past years in Jamaica, and in Belize. And those where I have friends that have adopted from, in Ethiopia and China. And those kids in America, who are currently in group homes or foster care. I am thrilled that we have orphan Sunday for these kids! 

But I just wonder sometimes if recognizing orphan Sunday is enough. In our comfortable churches, with our appropriate heat and air, with discussions of football, hunting and shopping and a sound system that rarely flickers (and it is tragic if it does.) is sitting and watching a video about orphans really what it means to "care for orphans and widows in their distress?" Not that the videos are bad either, but that sometimes we stop here. A tear forms and trickles down our cheeks, we smile and the cute little boys and the girl missing two front teeth. We want to hug them although the miles between us are many. But we can't do that now, so, we wipe the tear, walk out the door, and wonder about lunch. With a slight glance back, we move on. 

The orphans don't. They don't move on. They are still there. The boy on a broken rusty swing, the girl running through the field. Their birthdays come and go, many without mark or remembrance. Some not remembered because no one that now cares for them even knows when they were born. There is no day to celebrate. No birthday candles, no cake smash, songs to be sung or family to argue about who will take the photos, or who has to be in Which photos. 

We discuss the price, the fears, the questions and concerns. We consider all options and weigh the costs. They stand and simply say, it really doesn't matter who you are, or what you have, I want a loving family. 

I believe orphan Sunday is a good thing. I really do. If it does what it is intended to do. If it makes us uncomfortable long enough to force us to do more than smile at a video. If it makes us do more than throw money at an orphanage. If it makes us do more. Christ calls us to do more than recognize a problem. Christ calls us to solve the problems, with His help. Christ calls us to love..... 

Do we really want Him to break our heart for what breaks His? We might do well to look to the people He instructed us to take care of. What is stopping you?