Saturday, November 8, 2014

She wore white

When we hurried to Target that September afternoon to scour the aisles for the perfect Halloween costume (because they were 40% off with Cartwheel and I had a coupon!) I didn't think beyond the satisfaction of knowing that I got an amazing deal on four costumes and could check that off my list.

The costumes were placed in closets and for the most part remained untouched until October 31st when naturally a few adjustments needed to be made to the not-so-designer outfits my children were to wear that evening.  So elastic was sewn in the place of broken velcro on boot bottoms, mermaid tails were pinned to ensure no dragging on the ground and shoes were made to fit a bit more snugly in preparation for walking that just right length of neighborhood to accumulate not too much candy in a few hours.

With three girls I am keenly aware of the fact that if one asks me to curl hair or paint fingernails, it means that I will be curling three heads of hair and painting 30 nails.  It's just a given, so when I give the first "yes" I anticipate giving two more.  After curling Charlee's hair she bounded down the stairs, which meant I would hear either one or two sets of footsteps scurrying up the stairs shortly to say, "Mommy, can you do my hair like Charlee's?"  I was not disappointed when Kate rounded the corner and asked just that.

This is when my Halloween became a moment I will never forget.

With dress ironed and hair curled Kate stood before me and asked one simple question.

"Mommy, can you on this?"  Translated, "Mommy, can you put this veil on my head?"

A veil.

She chose to be a bride for Halloween.  Of all the costumes on the face of this planet (or at least in the aisle at Target) she chose this pretty white dress, with gloves and a veil.

A bride.

I answered her question with a simple, "Sure," and proceeded to place the veil on her head.

In that moment, my heart skipped a beat.

It was a simple request, really, but the magnitude of what it symbolized overwhelmed me.

Standing before me was this girl, this girl who has been calling me Mommy for just six months, completely unaware of just how significant that moment was, even if just for Halloween.  I had to hold back the tears as I carefully placed the veil atop her little head.

She stood before me wearing a gown that represents worthiness, purity, love and commitment.  Though she wasn't going to be walking down an aisle that night, I was awed as I considered the Lord's love.  His love that gives us worth, makes us pure, loves us the greatest and never forsakes us.  Because Kate is our daughter, we can offer her only a glimpse of that love, but she will know love in a way she never would if she were still in that Ukrainian orphanage.  And Lord willing, she will know His love one day.  For now I pray He would use us, however imperfectly, to reveal that love only He can offer.

Behold, I am making all things new.
Revelation 21:5

Then I was reminded that her name, her legal name Katya, means pure.  So, as she stood there in white, I saw her pureness anew.  And I am reminded to pray for the man the man who will take her to be his wife one day, that he would be God fearing and cherish this little girl of ours.  And I pray for the Daddy who will have to give her away.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

1 Month Home

We hit the one month mark as a family of six.  Looking back, I can't believe it's been only 4 weeks since I was last in Ukraine.  And just over 5 weeks ago, I was still making my daily visits to the orphanage from 3:30 to 6:30.  I am astounded at how much has changed in such a short time.

Many people have asked if we have found our "new" normal.

My answer:  "Yes, every day we find a new normal."

It becomes normal that I walk to the bathroom to see the toilet seat in the upright position.  A problem we didn't have just 4 weeks ago.

It is normal that each night at 8:30pm you will find Adam and I hovering over a bowl of ice cream as we breathe in a sigh of relief that the kids are all in bed.

We normally purchase much larger quantities of fruit these days with no waste...not even an apple seed goes unconsumed in our home by our two newest family members.  Occasionally, I will find the stem laying on the carpet near the Uno game we played just hours prior.  Yes, we still play Uno.  Even that in our home is normal.

Hearing four children in unison yelling "Mommy watch this" while in the pool is completely normal and even expected.  AND, the ability to tune out all but the first child who got my attention at that particular moment is also normal.

Responding to questions and statements like, "What o'clock?", "Mommy you stay this", "May I be excuse me please?", "What time I stand up?", "May I have more vater?", "Can you help me with my sunscream?", "Me no like thisis eat"...all normal.  I don't even hear that Kate and Max aren't fluent in English.  Until we are at the grocery store and the person standing beside us in a given aisle begins to notice that my 4 and 6 year old speak better English than my 10 and 11 year old.  I forget that their broken English isn't "normal" because it is to me.  And more than it just being normal, it's amazing!  They have come so far in such a short time with very little effort to formally teach them.  Normal now is that we rarely use Google Translate or even call a translator.  Sure there are many times I wish I could sit and have a real conversation with them, but I know it will come in time and probably sooner than I would ever expect.

Normal includes lots of time spent together as a family, or at least me and the kids when Adam is working.  Normal is fewer playdates, less time spent away from home, quicker and much more efficient trips to Sprouts and later bedtimes.  It is togetherness.  It is messy, sometimes ugly and not usually real pretty.  But it is good.  It is being sensitive to their limits, according to their ability to self-regulate and adjust to new and changing environments.

Has the month been amazing?  Yes!!!  But not because it's been perfect.  Far from it, in fact.  Thankfully, we didn't expect perfect, but choose to see the victories of each day, no matter how small, as something to be celebrated...over ice cream.

One of the greatest challenges is reminding myself that just because these kids look "typical" does not mean they are.   Reminding or informing others of this is also difficult at times.  It is easy to forget that they have pasts that include trauma, things that are part of their stories that are even unknown to us, that they don't know how family works, what family truly means.  They have an idea of what it is like to have a Mom and a Dad but it is romanticized (and why wouldn't it be?).  So, they challenge boundaries and authority.  It's their way of asking, "Do you really care?", "Will you really follow through?", "Do you really love me?"  And it is exhausting, but we are in it for the long haul.  This love is unconditional and nothing they will or will not do will change it.

So, if we seem antisocial it's because we kind of actually are.  And as much as I thought that might bother me, it actually kind of doesn't.  There is so much to learn and so much growth that is happening amongst the six members of this family that I want to create the firmest foundation possible as early as possible so that we all have a secure understanding of who we are as family and how this family operates.

Normal includes constant repetition of statements like "Family sticks together," "Family looks out for one another," "Family forgives," "Family respects."  The benefit of repeating these statements over and over again is that it reinforces for ALL of us that every thing we do, say or do not say has impact.

Also normal is learning to turn to the Lord more quickly, with greater need and more dependence on Him to meet the need of that moment.  We are in a place of great dependence on Him knowing that with so much we simply have to trust.  Trust Him to lead us, trust Him with our fears, trust Him with our questions and the great amount of unknown we face.  

So, lest you thought we had it all figured out, you now have a glimpse into the fact that we do not.  If you're wondering how we are doing, the answer is "Well."  Again, not perfect, not amazing, but there are moments that I feel we are not just surviving but actually thriving.  Moments when this does seem normal...and quite honestly there are more of those moments already than I ever would have expected at this point.  There is a long road ahead...for each of us.  Adoption does not define our family, but it has changed our family.  The reality is we are two parents with four kids, we just happen to have 21 years of unknown amongst our newest son and daughter.  But it doesn't matter.  Not that their pasts don't matter, they very much do.  What doesn't matter is how we came to be the family that we are.  What matters is how we go about it from here on out.

Friday, May 30, 2014


May 16, 2014.

Finally, the journey was over.  We made it home.

Waiting patiently.

The welcoming committee

So much excitement

Eager to spot Mommy.


Running to their absentee Mommy.

Father and son reunited on American ground.

My how I missed these two precious girls.

Mom and Dad together in the same city, the way it's supposed to be.

"Here Max."  Andee makes her first attempt to befriend her brother.

Now what?

I think Andee grew up by about three years since I last saw her.

Grandpa meets his oldest grandson.


"Anyone wanna count hryvnia with me right here in the middle of the airport?"

Sisters reunited and now with the same last name.


Finished.  Complete.  What a breath of fresh air to be united/reunited as family.

Of course, the fresh air feeling only lasts so long when you're dressed for much cooler weather and walk out the airport doors and inhale the 105 degree temperature air of Phoenix.  To me though it was a blessing.  The heat has never felt so good.  Our son, however, might have disagreed.  As we walked outside he turns to me and says, "Woah.  HOT.  95?"  And there's a strong probability he was referring to degrees Celsius since that's the system he knows.  If that's the case, he was telling me it felt like 203 degrees Fahrenheit.

To which I replied, "No, son, it's more like 105 and it doesn't stop here."  Thankfully he couldn't understand the latter part of my statement.

And so the adjusting begins...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homeward Bound: Part 3

Not four hours later the kids and I woke to my alarm.  We quickly dressed, packed up what few things we had unpacked four hours earlier and headed downstairs to enjoy breakfast courtesy of the meal vouchers given us by Lufthansa.  We each attempted to make up for "dinner" the night before with some serious fruit consumption.

At 6:30 we hopped on the shuttle back to the airport.  Back at the airport, with bags checked and security cleared we sat at the gate awaiting our flight to Denver.

All was well until one of my children got sick while we waited at the gate.  I completely expected it.  I had this feeling that this day wasn't going to be easier than the day before.

There are times, and I believe they happen in any adoption, where the spiritual warfare is so great that there are only two choices to make: cry and pray or laugh and pray.  The prayer part has to happen regardless of the other chosen response.  Thankfully today I was able to laugh (inwardly) and pray as I tracked down the nearest janitor to ask for a trash bag to use in case said child got sick again.  I thought to myself, "Well, this 100+ gallon size bag should carry us through to Phoenix and fit nicely inside my backpack along with the stack of at least 200 paper towels he gave me."

My sick child refused to take the Dramamine that I brought with me prior to the flight so I knew this was gonna be another fun adventure.  I purchased Sprite and some pretzels from a vendor nearby and we stood in line to board.

Thankfully 10 year old children are more self-aware and so when they vomit on an airplane, they have pretty good "aim."  Barf bag number one filled.  I called for a flight attendant to discard the bag and when she came she acted like she couldn't believe I didn't want to sit and hold the bag for the duration of the flight.  "No Ma'am, I don't exactly enjoy holding other peoples' vomit and that large trash bag you have been carrying through the cabin seems like a nice spot for it.  Besides it smells no worse than the "food" some of these folks paid to eat just moments ago."

Well, let's just say the vomiting continued, but I'm done talking about it.

We landed in Denver.  Phew.  Off to find our next flight.  The gate number was really high and having flown through Denver on multiple occasions the thought occurred to me that the really large number could be indicative of a very small aircraft.

Yep.  When we rounded the corner in the wing of the terminal directing us toward those larger numbers, I spotted our personal-size aircraft.  Okay, it wasn't horribly small, but everything's relative when you have a sick child.  "Perfect," I thought, "the motion on this little plane is totally going to help settle my child's stomach."  Oh, and the fact that we were seated in the last possible row...conveniently located adjacent to the restroom.  Oh my.

I was extremely thankful when my sick kiddo chose to be pro-Dramamine this flight.  Phew.  Aside from some crazy turbulence and the constant stink as passengers cycled in and out of the restroom (I had no idea that nearly an entire plane full of people would need to use the restroom on a1.5 hour flight.  Seriously people, just go before you board and hold it the rest of the way...I've heard it's good to exercise your bladder.)

As we descended into the desert valley that is Phoenix, Max commented, "Wow, it's pretty."  Inwardly I laughed as I thought, "I couldn't disagree with you more."  I didn't think telling him that his new hometown is actually not that beautiful would help things so I kept my opinion to myself.

One short, vomit-free flight later, we landed at our final destination!  Never thought it would really happen!

It seemed to take forever and a day to get off that airplane.  Excitement levels were rising, as were nerves just a little.  Kate was mostly cool, calm and collected as she was probably thinking, "Been there, done that, and just happy to be home again."  Max was more eager and yet hesitant as we walked through the terminal knowing at some point we would be greeted by Dad, Charlee, Andee, Grandma and Grandpa.

Walking through Sky Harbor never felt so good to this mama.  We made it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Homeward Bound: Part 2

Finally, we landed in Washington D.C.

Stepping foot on American soil, or at least American concrete in the Dulles airport never felt so good.  I didn't care that we missed our flight out to Phoenix, or at least I didn't care as much as I thought I might.   All I wanted at that point was to stand in the U.S. Customs line with my American passport and my two sealed packages of documents to hand over to the smiling, non-military fatigue dressed man sitting in the booth near a beautiful American flag.  Handing over these documents would make my children American citizens and that was my primary goal at this point of the journey.

Thankfully, we did pass uneventfully through U.S. Customs.  The friendly man congratulated Kate and Max on becoming citizens and welcomed them to America.  Any time they, especially Max, see a person dressed in official police or military looking clothing there is a bit of apprehension that comes over their faces and I have to be honest that's probably how I looked on the Ukraine side, too.  Once here though, all fears were relieved and I just wanted to explain to the kids that it's okay to smile here...we kind of do that a lot as a culture.  But still I sensed a bit of fear from them as if to say "Are they really going to let me in AND let me stay?"  I wanted so badly in that moment (when I couldn't use Google Translate because cell phones are restricted in Customs) to tell them this is a done deal now.  They have parents, new last names, siblings, new passports, new birth certificates AND they are American citizens.  That's a whole lot of new.

Once through Customs we had to retrieve our luggage.  Unfortunately we actually chose the wrong Customs area in the Dulles airport.  I assumed that since we missed our connecting flight, we needed to board the bus to the area for those folks whose final destination was Washington, D.C.  My mistake.  We should have continued onto the other bus.  It only cost us another hour as we had to wait for our luggage to make it from one area of the airport to another.  The good news was that when I inquired about our bags at least they did locate them, meaning they had at least made it.  At that point, I wasn't expecting much and didn't even care if we never saw our bags again.  One less thing to worry about.

Through Customs with luggage we headed upstairs to locate the Lufthansa desk.  There were no more flights out to Phoenix that evening and because the delay was Lufthansa's responsibility we were given hotel and meal vouchers to cover our stay until we could get on a flight the following day.  With vouchers in hand we were instructed to proceed to the United desk to get our boarding passes for our flight the following day.  Not sure why, but at that point I wasn't into asking questions.  I just wanted to get my kids to a hotel where we could rest for a few hours before another day of travel.

At the United desk, I was asked why Lufthansa sent me there.  After further difficulties, I ended up with boarding passes in my hands and we followed our instructions to go downstairs to wait for the shuttle to the hotel.

It was pouring rain.

We the pouring rain.  I guess this is another reason saran wrapped suitcases are a blessing...the water just beaded right down the sides!  We spotted our shuttle, climbed in, and I felt relieved there was a nice clean bed awaiting us when we arrived at the Comfort Inn.

I thought it would be an "airport hotel", but twenty minutes later we finally arrived at our destination.  We carted our waterproof luggage into the hotel.  Three other guests followed, two of whom we would spend the next 2 hours with...just not in this hotel.

One of the men stepped up to the counter and handed his very own hotel voucher to Jeremy, the young man behind the desk.  Immediately a puzzled look came over Jeremy's face and as I stood there with the very same hotel voucher in hand, my heart sank as I realized the words that next flowed from Jeremy's mouth would surely apply to us as well: "I don't know why Lufthansa gave you these vouchers for this hotel.  It was never authorized and we have no vacancy."

Now what?  After a few phone calls to Lufthansa, we were told we would need to come back to the airport to be issued new hotel and meal vouchers.  Oh my.

So we, along with our two newest friends (the other passengers from our flight who were issued the same invalid hotel vouchers), loaded our luggage back onto the shuttle.  Back to the airport.

At the airport we waited to be issued new vouchers.  Thirty minutes later, we were loading our luggage onto a shuttle again, this time headed to the Lansdowne Resort.  The kids and I each slept for this next 20 minute ride.  By this time, it was 11:30pm.

I thought it strange that at this time in the evening the entire shuttle to the resort was full, meaning only one thing.  Checkin would require additional waiting.  Right again.

One of multiple lines to checkin at 11:30pm.  Goodness.

 Finally...checkin complete, meal vouchers in hand we were able to enjoy our first quality meal Stateside.

Free reign of the snack bar put a smile on everyone's face, but not necessarily nutrition in anyone's body.

"Dinner" in hand, we carted ourselves and our luggage to room 219.  Behind the door we found two beds, a shower with shower head mounted to the wall, pillows (real ones), a TV that worked which thrilled my son.  Yes, we found a little bit of heaven in that room.  Now if only we didn't have to get through the plastic wrap on our luggage to get our pajamas out.  It took 3 of us 15 minutes to get the plastic off one suitcase with no utensils.  Thankfully we only had to do this 2 times instead of 3 because the helpful folks in the Frankfurt Customs department had already removed it from one bag, the one we didn't need, but still I was thankful.

A real non-Skype phone call over the Verizon 3G network to Adam, Pringles bedside for Kate and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse until 2:00am for Max.  The kids surely thought they hit the jackpot coming to America!  It was okay though, rules don't apply until you step foot in your actual hometown anyway.

Time for 3 solid hours of sleep...horizontally.  Beautiful.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Homeward Bound: Part 1

I don't know how we got here, but there are now six occupied seats at the dinner table....breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Each morning when I wake up there are still four children calling me Mommy and that includes my almost 11 year old son who also occasionally calls me "Sweetie."

Four children under one roof means we made it home.  That whole "getting home" thing quite possibly could have been what has challenged me the most on this journey so all 10 months of it!  Never in my life have I experienced such a comedy of errors.  Everything started well.  Got some sleep before leaving the apartment at 3:00am to head to Borispyl airport outside Kyiv.

The kids told me they did not need to sleep the night before we left.  This is what it looks like not to sleep.
We immediately headed to the "bag wrap" station to ensure no one would accidentally sample the chocolate we brought home.  With bags wrapped we stood in "line" to get check said bags and received boarding passes for our 3 flights home.  Line is really a relative term in Ukraine so the mama bear in me ensured that the 5 Ukrainian not-so-gentleman assumed their place behind us rather than in front.  Apparently they thought the line worked in reverse.

With cellophane wrapped bags checked, we headed to security.  I chose the line with the mostly friendly looking young man thinking that perhaps he would be kindest to us.  Thankfully I was correct and he laughed when he realized the kids understood each word he spoke, whereas I on the other hand waited until he finished his spiel to utter just one word, "Onleeskooyu" ("English").  I actually do know how to speak in a complete sentence to say that I do not speak Ukrainian, but in those awkward moments I'm usually not interested in waiting the 10 seconds to sound like I know what I'm talking about!

We proceeded through to Customs.  I handed over our passports, one American and two Ukrainian, to the military uniform clad man sitting behind the window of Booth #8.  Passports weren't enough for him, however, so he asked for supporting documents.  Thanks to a wonderful friend, I was prepared in the event that this might happen so I handed over the kids' new birth certificates, the court decree and the power of attorney which granted me permission to leave the country with the kids but not Adam.

The man disappeared into a back office for what was probably just 20 minutes, but seemed much longer.  We stood and stood and stood at the booth until finally they seated us in chairs nearer the back office.  There we continued to wait.  It's a bit of an unsettling feeling to hand over all critical documents as I did to a strange man who takes them into an office and does who knows what with them.  You kind of just sit and pray that even if they don't let you through Customs at least they return the documents to you.  So, I breathed a sigh of relief when our Customs man returned with our documents AND allowed us to pass through to our gate.

There wasn't a lot of time to wait at the gate before we boarded Lufthansa flight 1493 bound for Frankfurt.  The kids were excited at this point, but also knew we had 3 flights ahead of us and it would be a long time before we actually arrived home.

All smiles!

One last look at his home country.
Just over two hours later, we arrived in Frankfurt with a five hour layover ahead of us before our next flight to America!  Those five hours were mostly fun and games...

...and McDonald's...
...and naps...
...and Minion Rush...
...and watching large aircraft.
We even got to board an airplane at the end of the five hour layover.

We thought we were headed to America.
It was the deboarding 45 minutes later that stirred everything up.  There we sat, a mom who was beyond eager to get home by this time with two children whose hearts were America-bound, dying to cross that great ocean.  Happiness and excitement all around.  Until the pilot got on the loudspeaker to announce that we would be delayed at least an hour getting out of Frankfurt because of a faulty emergency light.  We would get to sit an extra hour on the aircraft...while on the ground.  Good times, especially when you have to explain to two non-English speaking children what's going on.

Explanations were made and while the kids were disappointed, their hearts were still set on happy.  Then the captain made a second announcement.  Of course, when it's an international flight on a German airline the first announcement is not in English.  I didn't even need to hear the English version to know that it was bad news.  I had the faces of the German speaking folks next to me to quickly understand that I probably didn't even want to hear the English announcement.  But it came anyway..."Folks, unfortunately we will need to ask you to leave this aircraft.  The mechanical issue is bigger than what we initially thought and cannot be fixed in an hour.  We will wait for a new aircraft to arrive."

Discouraged.  Now, I have to figure out how I'm going to explain this one to the kids.  "Well kids, this was just a test run to see what you thought of your seats...just to give you a little sample of what the 10 hour flight will feel like...eventually."  Faces definitely dropped this time around, including my own.

We deboarded the aircraft and moved to a new gate where the friendly Lufthansa staff informed us they "hoped" our new aircraft would soon and we would leave in the next hour or so.  Their "hope" did nothing to comfort me or any of the other passengers at this point.  Over an hour later, the aircraft had not arrived so another friendly staff person's voice was heard at the gate explaining another delay.

more naps

I was so thankful at this point that both the kids had fallen asleep.  Their sleeping allowed me time to cry.  As I listened to the conversations of other passengers about how they were going to have to spend extra time in the office because of this and wouldn't be able to get home that evening to see the kids I felt like screaming, "You have no idea!  Listen up people.  I've been away from home for weeks alone in a country on the brink of war and now I have two 10 year old children with me who speak little English that just want to get home...and our final destination is not Washington D.C. ....and my iPad battery is getting low from all this Minion Rush....oh, and would you like to sit by us on the airplane because my daughter gets severe motion sickness and I don't know if I'll be able to get her take the Dramamine I have for her."

Sinful, selfish, unloving, not trusting of the Lord...yep, that was me in that moment.  I'll admit it.

Finally, 9 hours from the time time we landed in Frankfurt, we were boarding a plane headed to the United States.  By this time, I was thankful.  Thankful that even though we would miss our flight out of D.C., we would still have feet on the ground in America.

Trooper 1

Trooper 2

Truly, the kids did so well.  We actually enjoyed a relatively uneventful flight into Dulles.  Kate didn't get sick because she took the Dramamine I offered her.  My iPad battery was saved because of the plethora of in-flight movies and music offered.  And we only had to spend an extra 45 minutes in air circling over D.C. before we could land due to weather...ha!  By this time, I was pretty much confident that the rest of the trip would continue to be as comical as the first well not-even-half.  And alas, the rest of our traveling experience did not disappoint.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To my girls at home

My dear Charlee and Andee,

Today is Mother's Day.  Today, I want you to know how thankful I am to be your Mommy.  We are half a world away from each other right now and I hate that.  I can't tell you how much I hate that.  Not because it's bad where I am, but because I want to be with you.  I want the two of you by my side.  I don't know how not to be a mom to all my children at the same time.  Kate and Max are with me now and it's good.  I am thankful to call them my children now as well, but there's nothing I want more right now than to have our family together under one roof.

Thank you for teaching me (although I'm not done learning) how to be a mom.  Thank you, that because of the two of you, my heart could be open to loving more children.  Thank you that you have allowed me to go, to be here, to leave you for such a very long time all in the name of bringing home a new brother and sister.  I realize that you didn't exactly get much say in the matter, but your love is what allowed me to go and has allowed me to stay.  Your love for your sister and your brother who you've still not met.  You girls have hearts that have been greatly enlarged by this process, by the journey God has taken our family on over the last year.  You have an understanding that love truly is more than blood.  Love is sacrifice, it is patience, it is endurance, it is faithfulness, it is loyalty, it is fulfilling kept promises.  You, even at your young ages, understand this more than some adults.  You knew early on that Daddy and I committed to doing whatever it would take to bring Kate home to be your sister.  None of us expected to bring you home a brother, but I have a feeling once you meet him you're going to be really happy you have one.

Charlee and Andee, you bless me.  Before I became a mom I think I anticipated being a blessing to my children, but now that I am a mom I realize that so much of this motherhood thing is about how you cause me to change.  You bless me.  You teach me.  You cause me to examine my own heart.  You offer forgiveness.  You correct.  You challenge.  You encourage.  You love.  You are only six and four years old, but you, my sweet girls, have great influence in my life.

In just a few days I will be bringing home Kate and Max.  Our family will change.  We will grow more.  We will learn a new normal.  We will sacrifice.  We will be challenged.  We will do this all together because we are family and that is what we are called to do.  Thank you, girls, for your love.  I wouldn't be the mom I am and see the world the way I do if it weren't for you two who changed my name to Mommy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Got my walking shoes on...

There's a good chance that the smartest thing I could be doing right now is sleeping.  In fact, I was more or less instructed to do that very thing just over an hour ago.  Sleep would probably benefit me as I will be escorting two children out of an orphanage in just a couple hours.  Two children who probably won't think sleep is as high a priority as it ought to be.

Instead I find myself sitting here in this apartment for the very last hour of what will likely be forever.  Sitting in silence.  There is not a single person needing me right now.  In fact, there are only a select few who could even locate me on a map right now.  Nope, right now I'm alone...alone with my thoughts which are too many to even attempt making sense of.

There are two children, who are orphans no more because they've been given new last names, waiting for me to arrive at the place they've called home for too many years.  This time, instead of visiting for a few hours and "playing" family, we really are.  We will leave that place as mother, son and daughter.  I can hardly type that through the tears right now.  Adam and I made a promise to Kate when she left our home last August that we would do whatever it took to come for her.  And God has brought us to this point and we got a bonus because he added Max to his sovereign plan.

Little did they know they'd end up brother and sister.
This silence I sit in, it's coming to an end.  There will be no silence in my world for quite some time.  Now when I hear, "Mommy," my ears will hear the voice of one of my four children...or perhaps all four at the same time as I know all too well this will probably be the norm rather than the exception.  Four people on this planet have the right to call me Mom.  So, when the craziness ensues upon arriving back in the States, I want to remember the silence and how God took it and he filled it with twice as many voices as I once knew.

I cannot help but be overwhelmed with the way adoption is a picture of the Gospel and how through this, even just to this point, I know Jesus better.  When I think of the suffering that has happened to get us to this point, knowing full well it's not over, I am thankful.  Thankful that even this suffering compares not in the least to the suffering Jesus endured, the wrath of God, to make me a daughter of the King.  Some days it feels like the sacrifices to be here and to make this happen are just too great, but they're not.  I wonder sometimes if Charlee and Andee will resent me for leaving them for so long, but before I left even the first time I explained to them how sometimes life requires great sacrifice.  That sometimes we have to give things up or let things go (or people) in order to allow God to do great things.  Because it's in that surrender, in those "Yes, Lord" moments that He does His greatest work.  Too often we say "Yes, but" and we miss out on so much of what the Lord wants for us because we don't surrender.  There have been parts of this journey that I absolutely have not lived surrendered, but then I feel like I hear the Lord saying, 'Give me your "buts."  I'm bigger than the "buts".'

So, I don't have any idea what the next hour will bring let alone the next several days that the kids and I spend together in Kyiv while we wait on their passports.  I'm praying for a wonderful time of bonding and getting to enjoy their country together.  I'm hopeful that He who began this good work is not done yet.

Now it's time to close this chapter, put my walking shoes on and anticipate the beginning of a new chapter.  I've got my walking shoes on and I'm ready to get theirs on and walk my son and daughter into freedom and towards redemption.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:15-17

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Birth Certificates and More

Anyone who has gone through the process of adoption understands on a whole new level the phrase "hurry up and wait."  There's been a lot of waiting around here...until yesterday.  Now we have entered a new "hurry up" phase.  It's a wonderful place to be, but my is it exhausting.  Exhausting not because of the long days entirely, but because as I watch this all coming to fruition there are so many emotions.  Emotions in being overwhelmed with joy and awe and emotions in anticipation of loss, change, adjustments...discovering a new normal.

Monday night Alla picked up our court decree as our 10-day waiting period had ended and the decree went into effect.  Early yesterday morning she picked me up and the two of us, along with a new driver, headed to Zolotonosha, Kate's birth town.

Here we dropped off papers at the local SDA and then headed to the birth certificate office.  Once we arrived at the office, Alla pulled up a chair just next to the woman who would create the birth certificate.  Alla is all about getting things done and she will supervise whenever necessary to make sure they are done efficiently and correctly.  And when you're dealing with a different sort of government and a language barrier, she is exactly who you want facilitating.

Alla the supervisor.

Some serious organization of files happening in another corner of the office.

And in another corner.
After several hours in Zolotonosha and lots of waiting while Alla does all the working, we completed our mission and she congratulated me as she handed me Kate's new birth certificate with mine and Adam's names as her parents.  A beautiful moment.

Kate's got parents!

With business complete in Zolotonosha, quickly we were off to Kaniv, Max's birth town.

Both our children's birth towns on the same sign.

Welcome to Kaniv.

Once at the birth certificate office in Kaniv, I was again instructed to sit in a chair in one corner of the room and "play video games on my phone" while Alla went back into supervisor mode ensuring that the ladies at this birth certificate office also did their jobs.

Love this "bossy" lady.
The ladies had to take a lunch break so we, too, found a nice spot for lunch nearby.  I was excited to enjoy some traditional Ukrainian food.

I have become a buckwheat lover since my first days of orphanage food in January.

Alla refers to these two bags as our "4th team member".  They contain all our important documents and even earned a place next to me at the lunch table.
After lunch we returned to the birth certificate office and just ten minutes or so later I was again congratulated and handed Max's new birth certificate.

And off we drove back to Cherkasy...quickly.  But, when you see a good deal on the side of the road, there's always time to stop and take advantage of it.

Alla and our driver purchasing "real" (organic) potatoes from women on the side of the road.
We made it back to Cherkasy and met another "good friend" in front of the building where we would apply for our kids' new Ukrainian passports.  I haven't a clue what all happened during our time in this building as I was instructed to sit on a bench and play games again.  Only occasionally was my presence requested throughout the day for my signature in blue ink on documents I know nothing of.  But it's starting to seem less and less strange to me as the days pass, I offer more signatures, I see more blue stamps, and things continue to progress.

From the passport office we drove just down the street to the notary office and did something there which involved more blue stamps and fancy papers.  At least that's what I'm supposing happened, I was not witness to any of it however as I was to "sit, relax and be patient" in the car...alone.

So, to sum up the day, I spent a lot of time sitting and when the blue pen was handed to me I signed and offered a simple "Spasiba" (Thank you).  I sat in random chairs and in the back seat of the car of another strange man.  I think what's most concerning about all of this is not how strange it is in all reality, but in how "normal" it's beginning to become.  There are all kinds of new normals here in Ukraine.  I tend not to question things.  Mostly it's easier to go with the flow and do as I'm told.

Today we will pick the kids up from the orphanage to get their passport photos taken.  We will go back to Kaniv to finish up business there and the rest I guess I will find out as the day unfolds.

"This just can't possibly be my life."

That's the thought that dominates my mind these days.

But it is.  This is where I am, becoming part of our newest kid's stories...right where God has places us.  Sometimes I feel like the Lord flew us in the middle of the night in a stealth helicopter and dropped us here.  That only barely touches on how surreal this is.  But I guess I should start seeing this as reality and not just some crazy movie I happen to have a lead role in because these kids, they're coming home...with me...soon.

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