One Year

One year ago, I sat on the edge of the bathtub and I sobbed.One year ago, my heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces, and it has taken a full twelve months to reassemble those pieces in some order.

Twelve months is a long time. Healing takes a long time.

With the space of 365 days between then and now, I’ve had time to gain a little perspective. There are some who have said that it wasn’t meant to be for our family. God clearly didn’t have it in His plan for us to bring home a child from a Russian orphanage. While there may be some theological truth to that statement, I can say with no uncertainty that that is not a comforting attitude to hold, and the thought has brought little peace to my heart.

The fact is, God led us down the path of adoption, and He led us right into the fire of a disrupted adoption. This was so that we could be refined, so that we could know Him a little more.

It was so that we would step forward out of the fire with courage and not abandon the fight for children living without families.

One year later, our situation is different. We’re in for more heartache in two weeks when we put K on a plane back home. Our kids will be broken hearted again to say goodbye – our precious children who still hope for another sibling. God is refining them as well – teaching them to give sacrificially, even when it hurts.

While this year has provided a blanket of healing for our family, there are still many families living with the deep pain of separation. There are parents who actually held their children in their arms, who promised they would return to get them, and who cannot go back. There are children in institutions who could have had homes.

These are the people who need your continued prayer. These are the people who still sit in the unknown. Pray for the children who are left behind. Pray for the families in America who want to adopt them but cannot. Pray for the families in Russia who would like to adopt, but don’t have the resources or the help necessary to take in institutionalized children.

No child should grow up without a family. I have evidence of that sleeping in a room down the hall.

Watch this video, and keep praying everyone. A New Year awaits.

A lot can happen in a year…

 

Processing it all

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She opens the gift and a light turns on inside her eyes. It’s art supplies and new cross stitch patterns. We know what she likes because we’ve watched and observed. We’ve taken the time to get to know her – not just her needs, but also her wants.

For a child who’s spent most of her formative years in a children’s home, this is more than unique. Someone took time to know her, not just about her, but really know her. Isn’t that what we all want at the very core of our being?

Don’t we all want to be known?

Our internet has been down all week, which has actually been a good thing. There are so many emotions to process right now, and I’m not sure processing them out loud, online, is the best choice.  This experience hasn’t been anything like what we thought it would be. We haven’t run into any of the issues that we were told we might face.

Grace abounds in the form of a 17 year old girl with a smile to light up a room. She’s well adjusted, kind, thoughtful and sweet. She asks for little and is so grateful for everything. She tells her story matter of factly, but not in a way that’s robotic. In a word – she is content.

We’re learning so much from this sweet girl. Yes, there are some behaviors that give evidence of the hardships of the past, but those behaviors are slowly fading as she experiences the gift of unconditional love each and every day. Slowly she becomes more comfortable, the walls lower, and we see a natural inner beauty emerging, and I cannot help but be affected.

There are stories to tell and emotions to process, but for now I’ll just share a few photos. It’s the best I can do today. Thank you all for praying for us, and for blessing us with encouraging words, and with gifts for “K.” People have told us we’re amazing for doing this, and while I appreciate the sentiment, the truth is – I don’t feel amazing. 

I feel scared.

I feel blessed.

I feel honored to have been led down this path.

I feel overwhelmed.

I feel like I don’t really understand God the way I thought I understood God. Because I’ve never been an orphan in the physical sense of the word, it’s so hard for me to fully grasp my adoption as a daughter of God. These kids who grow up without the comfort of parental love possess a strength far beyond that which I can understand. I’m praying that we are able to send her home with so much more than simple material blessings.

Undoubtably, she’ll leave us with much more than any of us anticipated.

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Lost in Translation

IMGP9007I can’t even begin to describe how fun it is to have someone in my home who speaks the language that I love so deeply. I am thoroughly enjoying speaking Russian again, though it is just rusty enough that I stumble over just about everything I say.

For example, yesterday I told “K” that I was a writer and pointed to my desk. “That’s where I sit and pee all day,” I said.

“I write” and “I pee” are veeeeeery similar in the Russian language, just FYI. Mix up the tenses and you have yourself a bit of an awkward sentence. Luckily, I caught myself and corrected the dialogue quickly, but not before she and I had a good laugh.

Communicating the very basic things has become the most humorous. How to use the shower, what to do with toilet paper (our countries deal with this issue differently), personal hygiene situations. These are all conversations that I have never had in Russian before! Heck, I haven’t had to have some of these awkward conversations in English with my own child – now I’m communicating them in Russian with a teenager who barely knows me.

Thank goodness she has a good sense of humor, and she is extremely laid back.

I caught a glimpse of a few of the emotional wounds she’s experienced yesterday, and once again, I wished my language were better. I know enough to hear the heartache, but not enough to hold onto it. There is time, though. Time for her to develop a greater sense of trust. Time for me to listen more. Time for us to work together to place a balm on these emotional wounds.

We went to Super Target yesterday. Everyone should experience Super Target with a seventeen year old who’s never seen a supermarket in her life. She was silent, wide-eyed, and completely overwhelmed. I had her try on shoes, and she looked at all the selections, then looked at me completely flabbergasted.

Ah, Target – The International Love Language of Females.

Today we’ll go clothes shopping. She needs shorts – you know…because it’s going to be 80 degrees in Florida this weekend. I also plan on introducing her to Chick-fil-A, because I believe she needs to experience the blessed chicken sandwich, hand breaded on a bun with two pickles and a dash of the Holy Spirit.

 

Amen?

rainbowloomShe’s experienced the Rainbow Loom kit already, and our boys subjected her to The Wobble last night. It’s a dance. There are really no descriptions for it – you should just look it up.

Tonight we’re going to watch a movie. I’m not sure which one yet. I’m trying to decide what would be a good, introductory movie for someone with limited language. Elf? Too crazy, too soon? We’ll see…

This sweet girl doesn’t quite know what to do with herself here, yet. We’re going to change that, one ridiculous dance and movie at a time.

*wink*

Why Orphan Hosting?

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As we prepare to welcome “K” into our family this holiday season, I thought I’d answer a few questions that have been asked of us. When we signed up for this orphan hosting program, I wasn’t 100% convinced I wanted to go through with it.

But the more Lee and I talked about this, and researched the program, the more excited we became to be a part of this very unique ministry. We committed to host “K” a day before the deadline, and within a couple of weeks had made all the necessary payments, filled out the paperwork, and we were officially welcomed as host parents.

The purpose of bringing these children into our homes for a few weeks is multifaceted. First and foremost, as host families our desire is to show children that they are loved. We want them to know that they hold value in this world, particularly these young kids who are living full time in state run orphanages. Hosting is a chance for a child to experience a different culture, which widens their view of the world, and opens their minds to possibilities outside the walls of their home.

Image-1Children who age out of the orphanages at young ages are some of the most vulnerable in the world. Girls are more likely to wind up in sex trafficking and prostitution when they “graduate,” and boys are more likely to end up in prison. If we can give them the knowledge and understanding that their lives, their bodies, their minds, are valuable, perhaps we can prevent some of these casualties of poverty.

Orphan hosting also raises adoption awareness. When people are able to see and touch a child without a family, they are more drawn to the possibility of adoption. The doubts are less obvious in the presence of a child looking for love. New Horizons for Children, the hosting agency we are working with, is not an adoption agency and these children are not brought to the States to “find a family.” But many families are so impacted by the experience that they’re moved to adopt.

Orphan hosting widens our comfortable, Western view of the world just as much as it does the children who come to visit. Remember, hope isn’t only slow for those trapped in hard situations. It’s slow for us who are trapped in wealth and comfort, too.

Yesterday, Shaun posted a great article about the difference that urgency makes in our desire and ability to act on our passions. My sense of  urgency lies in orphan care. I thought that this urgency, born out of a passion, would have a different result, and maybe it still will…someday. But right now, here in the interim, Lee and I know we cannot sit idle.

Urgency combined with passion must manifest in some sort of action. We’ve chosen to follow the path of orphan hosting for this season of waiting. Perhaps it will open a new door, or send us down a different path. Maybe “K” will leave and we will remain in the same position of waiting and wondering what’s next. I’m not quite sure.

All I know is we can’t ignore this sense of urgency that we feel.

For the next month we will pour into this young woman with all the love we possess. We have no preconceived notions on how this experience will be for our family, but both Lee and I have a true peace and mounting excitement for how our Christmas will be affected.

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Sloan has sweetly given up his room for the month, and also let me make it all girly for “K.”

Pray for us these next four weeks as we walk this new path?

Thanks, everyone! We will keep you posted and will share pictures when we can!

Half a dozen years

My baby is six today. This child brings so much joy to our family, and I am grateful every single day for his smile, his humor, his giggles, his freckles, his energy, his sweetness.

He is so precious to me.

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He’s currently keeping his hair longer because, in his words, “I wanna be able to flip it.” Um…okay.

He's always good for a laugh.

He’s always good for a laugh.

That face. I could cover it with smooches if he'd let me...

That face. I could cover it with smooches if he’d let me…

 

Goof

Goof

Goof take 2

Goof take 2

Perhaps his biggest flaw is that he knows he's cute, and he works it.

Perhaps his biggest flaw is that he knows he’s cute, and he works it.

Skinned knees and elbows are part of his every day wardrobe. "Play hard of Go Home." That's his motto.

Skinned knees and elbows are part of his every day wardrobe. “Play hard of Go Home.” That’s his motto.

 

He hates shoes so this is what his feet look like every moment of every day.

He hates shoes so this is what his feet look like every moment of every day.

He continues to grow taller, yet he has only gained about 4 pounds in the last three years. He's a scrawny little bugger...

He continues to grow taller, yet he has only gained about 4 pounds in the last three years. He’s a scrawny little bugger…

 

All the girls have crushes on him. What can I say? Chicks dig freckles...

All the girls have crushes on him. What can I say? Chicks dig freckles…

I’m constantly wishing I could freeze time with this kid, and yet each new season brings out a new aspect of his personality that is so much fun. I can’t wait to see what he becomes in the future.

Posts of birthdays past if you’re interested:

Someone’s One – December 16, 2008

To My Son on His Birthday – December 16, 2009

My Christmas Baby – December 16, 2010

Four is More – December 16, 2011

Delightfully Five – December 16, 2012

Ghosts of Christmases Past

I took my kids to see Santa yesterday. This is probably our last year with everyone believing, so I wanted to mark it well. As we walked away from the jolly man in red, I asked Landon how the encounter went.

“He smelled like beef and cheese,” he responded. “He sits on a throne of lies.”

And then I fell over laughing. Every family has a “funny one,” right?

And for those of you who are thoroughly confused as to why that’s so funny, I leave you with this clip from the movie ELF, and I order that you go watch the movie in it’s entirety today. Do not go another day without having seen the entire film.

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Christmas 2004 – A traumatized Sloan

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Sloan and Tia in 2009 with “Dyed Moroz,” the Russian Santa.

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Christmas 2008 – A traumatized Landon

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Christmas 2013 – the last when they all believe. *sob*

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to one more year of magic and laughter…

Scenes from a (crazy) (blessed) weekend

We packed last weekend full of as much activity as we possible could in order to fit everything in before Christmas. Birthday parties, an all day training for orphan hosting, and our annual Christmas party left us completely spent last night.

But it was all so fun!

I baked, cleaned, baked, cleaned some more, set up, tore down, set up, tore down again, and on and on it went, and when it was all said and done and the dust settled we were left with great memories, and sweet blessings shared.

Today I’m just going to share a few photos of our crazy weekend. I’ll be writing later this week about the impact our Christmas party had on us, and will hopefully have both locally and internationally.

We are blessed, indeed.

We kicked off the weekend by celebrating Landon’s upcoming 6th birthday.

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I managed to control 15 kindergartners, a piñata, and a metal bat all by myself WITHOUT BEING BLUDGEONED TO DEATH! Someone give me a medal. Or a stiff drink. Either will do…

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Don’t you love how much kids enjoy celebrating one another?!

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A 6 year old opening gifts in front of his friends – the definition of claustrophobia…

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On Sunday we hosted our annual Christmas party in which we gathered toys for The Ronald McDonald House, and this year we teamed up with Sole Hope to cut shoes for Ugandan children.

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So many people we’re blessed to know.

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Cutting out old jeans, which will be made into shoes for children. So simple. So effective.

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Sweet friends working hard. We cut enough fabric to assemble 30 complete pairs of shoes. 

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It’s not a party without a wicked game of soccer, football, baseball, tag…

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Lee reading the story of the birth of Christ, and why we love to bless and give to others, because so much has already been done for us.

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Tia and Landon helped me assemble the shoe kits Sunday night, which will now be sent to Uganda to be sewn together.

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We have one week left to prepare for Christmas before our sweet “K” arrives to spend a month with us. I am admittedly a little overwhelmed, and also relieved to have last weekend under my belt. But what a blessing it is to be able to pour ourselves out to the greater benefit of others. It’s not easy, but the reward is worth the lack of sleep, the stress, and the work involved.

I can’t wait to share more with you all this week about the way the Lord has blessed us by giving us opportunities to bless others!

Happy Monday, friends!

 

The Ultimate Betrayal

Guys, we have a problem. On the grand scale of “Problems the World Faces” this is, like, a .5. It’s a small problem when placed against the backdrop of all the things that could go wrong.

But it’s still a problem.

My van is falling apart. A moment of silence, if you please.

It’s a funny thing, paying off a car. When I submitted the final payment, I felt an awesome sense of victory. I felt like I was sticking it to the man.

We enjoyed a WHOLE year of no payments before the heat shield on my engine went kaput and we needed to sacrifice one child’s college fun to fix it.

(Sidenote – I actually have no idea if it was the heat shield that went bad. I can’t remember what happened. I just remember that when the mechanic told me the issue and how much it would cost, I felt like he was explaining the mechanical failure of a space shuttle – not my van. So I’m sticking with heat shield for the purposes of this blog post.)

That event began a slow descent into car maintenance hell. New tires. New belts. New this and that.

Shattered windshield.

A few months ago, the check engine light came on. I pretended I didn’t see it for awhile before finally taking it in only to find out the fuel level sensor was going bad. It didn’t take a $60 diagnostic test to figure that out given the fact that my fuel gauge is never accurate.

Then there was an oil leak.

Then they told us how much it would cost to fix the fuel sensor, and we’re thinking it would be more beneficial to just get a new car than sink that much into this current one.

That’s when it all hit the fan.

 

Lee came home and scoured the internet for new used cars. I peeked over his shoulders and do you know what he was looking at?

SUV’S!

 

“You don’t really need a van anymore,” he tried to reason with me. “You could just get a 7-passengar SUV instead.”

The betrayal! For shame.

Of course, I did consider it briefly. I considered the cool points I’d get back if I got rid of the minivan and went back to traipsing around town in a slick SUV, no longer neutered by my four-wheel metal office.

But then practicality set in. I have three children, all of whom are on track to be rather tall. If Sloan doesn’t slow down, he could easily reach 6 feet by junior high.

I tried to envision him and his tall, lanky friends crawling into the back of a 7-passenger SUV, and all I saw were broken windows and a lot of inappropriate jokes.

Someday I’ll experience release from the confines of the minivan. Someday I will pull up to the curb in a saucy little car that screams “hip” and “cool.” I’ll probably be a grandma by that time, but whatever.

I’ll be one hip granny.

Until that time, however, I’m afraid the minivan is the practical choice for me. They even have vans with built in vacuum cleaners now. WHHHAAAAA?????

Ten-to-one a mom came up with that idea. I’m still waiting for minivan makers to adopt my brilliant idea. And when they do, I expect them to give me a free van for the duration of my minivan driving years.

THAT’S NOT MUCH TO ASK!

 

So there you have it. I may be in the market for a new minivan in the coming months, and my husband is a traitor to the minivan community. I still love him, though. If for no other reason than for his brilliance in this movie.

Peace out.

The single, blinking strand

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On Christmas night last year, after all the gifts had been unwrapped, the meals consumed, the bustle of the day quieted, and my household fell asleep, I sat in front of our lit tree. With all the other lights turned off, I curled up and stared at the Christmas lights. Some of them twinkle, and some do not. This annoys the part of my brain that longs for order, and yet somehow it fits our family.

I watched the half blinking tree, and my heart twisted as I mulled over the possibility that our adoption would be terminated. At that point, talks of a ban on Americans adopting were only murmurs. Nobody really thought it would happen – we all thought Putin was posturing, just trying to save face. I stared at the tree, and I wondered if it was all going to fall apart. I wondered if this year, Christmas 2013, we would indeed have a new daughter home, dancing around the tree, admiring the single strand of blinking lights and trying to figure out why none of the other lights blinked.

I wrote about that night here - I wrote about how the Lord whispered “Wait,” and how my heart fluctuated from grief to peace, and back and forth like that single strand of blinking lights.

Three days later, all my fears were realized when Vladimir Putin made the ban official.

You know the rest of the story.

Two months ago, I woke up early one morning. I felt restless and sad, a feeling that’s been too familiar this past year. With Christmas coming up, I found myself once again wishing that things were different. I thought we’d have her home at this point. I thought we’d be a family of six before the end of the year.

I spent a bit of time sitting my favorite chair, sipping my coffee and praying that I wouldn’t miss all the blessings of the upcoming Christmas season. I prayed for a release from my heartache. I prayed for a contentment in where my family is right now. 

An hour later, I opened my computer, and noticed an email from an organization called New Horizons for Children. This is an orphan hosting organization – they bring children to the United States for 4-5 weeks as an opportunity to experience a new culture, to experience family, to improve their English, and to have a potentially once in a lifetime experience outside the walls of their orphanage.

merrychristmasI showed Lee the email, and together we prayed over this opportunity. We looked through the children available for sponsorship, and one young woman stood out to both of us. Within days we had filled out the application and made the first payment to officially welcome her to our family for the Christmas season.

God is funny, isn’t He? Last year I thought for sure that we would be bringing home a toddler daughter to raise for a lifetime. Instead we will be welcoming a teenage “daughter” to love for only a short time. She turns 18 a week after she returns home, and she will officially age out of the orphanage. Our hope is to love her well, and love her fully, for the month that we have her so that when she’s on her own, she will have some reference and understanding of her worth in this world.

We want her to see Christ in our family.

We want her to see what a godly, stable relationship between husband and wife looks like.

We want her to know that she is not defined by her background.

We want her to know that we will always love her, even if we only get her for four short weeks.

Will you pray for our family as we welcome this precious girl who has spent most of her life in an orphanage? Pray that this experience will be a positive one, for both her and our family. Pray that she will see and know love. Pray that we can bond quickly, and that when she leaves, she returns home with a new sense of confidence as a daughter of God.

This isn’t what we planned when we set out to adopt, but I am so grateful for God’s goodness in giving us this opportunity – for His sweetness in knowing that this Christmas was going to be a hard one. I’m thankful that we’ll have a month to pour ourselves out fully together as a family.

The sign reads "We're waiting for you."

The sign reads “We’re waiting for you.”

When God whispered “Wait” last year, I had no idea this is what we were waiting for. It may not be as I envisioned, but like the single blinking strand on our Christmas tree, it somehow seems right.

Thanks for joining with us in prayer, friends. It blesses us more than you know.

Thankful for the shattered start

crackedwindow

Thanksgiving week started out like this in our house. A shattered back window thanks to a wayward baseball sent us crashing (pun intended) into the holiday season with a tiny bit of shock, and a good amount of laughter.

If you ever need a chance to work on not sweating the small stuff, have your five year old throw a baseball through the car. Works like a charm.

My first thought upon walking outside and seeing the damage was horror. I couldn’t help wonder how much this was going to cost, and as we head into Christmas, unexpected broken windows were not high on my list of “things to throw money at.” As I stood in the driveway, mouth agape, Landon walked up to me, his eyes wide and horrified.

I looked down at him and he broke. “I DID IT!” he wailed. “IT’S ALL MY FAULT!!”

And just like that I realized the window didn’t matter – his fragile five year old heart did. I scooped him up and set him on the back of Lee’s car and hugged hard and tight letting him know that car windows are meaningless and easily repaired. I communicated as much love and forgiveness as I could in that one tight hug, because he needed to feel it. He needed to know that a silly accident would never affect my love for him.

As Lee swept up the broken glass, I comforted my distraught child who felt a world of guilt on his tiny little shoulders, and I was reminded, once again, that my reaction as a mom to these types of accidents has the potential to make or break my children. This is the place where they need to know that they can mess up – they can break windows, kick holes in the wall, knock plates off the table, and stain the carpet, and never be far removed from a hug and the assurance of love.

As we swept up the glass, we showered him with grace. It was an accident. It’s no big deal. We have insurance. All is well. And slowly, we pieced him back together and made him a little more whole.

By the end of the day, the insurance company had come out and replaced the glass at no charge, and the only thing lost was my favorite STL Cardinals sticker. And this one incident sent us into Thanksgiving with grateful, thankful hearts. Thankful for grace, and love and forgiveness. Thankful for a God who lavishes grace on us when we make mistakes, when we accidentally make a mess. Thankful for family and life and children who are healthy enough to throw a ball through a window.

I am so thankful for grace, when it is shown to me, and when I have the wherewithal to slow down and show it. Oddly enough, that broken window set us up for a weekend full of gratitude. Had Landon not shattered that glass, I’m not sure my eyes would have been quite as open to the beauty of a Thanksgiving weekend filled with laughter, with visitors, and with enough grace to cover a lifetime.

I will forever be grateful for that broken window, and for the boy who continually teaches me to love graciously, wholly and fiercely.  

More scenes from Thanksgiving:

 

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Girl cousins

Girl cousins

My aunt and uncle have done missionary work in Jamaica for years. Red is their Jamaican "son," and he fit right in with our crazy crowd.

My aunt and uncle have done missionary work in Jamaica for years. Red is their Jamaican “son,” and he fit right in with our crazy crowd.

 

Our 2nd Annual Family Kickball Game

Our 2nd Annual Family Kickball Game

 

The men of the group

The men of the group

The whole crew. 31 family members, plus 5 of our dear friends from St. Louis who recently moved to Boca Raton. How can I not be thankful for this?!

The whole crew. 32 family members, plus 5 of our dear friends from St. Louis who recently moved to Boca Raton. How can I not be thankful for this?!

 

Day after Thanksgiving. Beach. Perfection.

Day after Thanksgiving. Beach. Perfection.

Pure magic, this boy.

Pure magic, this boy.

 

Yes, there are.

Yes, there are.

So tell me, friends – How was your Thanksgiving?!