Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I told you there'd probably be more...

So, because of crazy suitcase and carry on weight regulations, I had to pack my Jesus Calling book in my suitcase and not carry it with me.  My suitcase somehow got left in Frankfurt while Shane's made it to America with us just fine.  I've been waiting for it for 3 days now.  It's still not here. And I'm dying without my Jesus Calling book!!!

I'm embarrassed to admit that there are very few times in my life that I have actually THIRSTED after the Word of God.  Reading the Bible has always been something I've known I need to do to grow in my relationship with the Lord, but I have not often NEEDED to read it like I need to breathe.  This morning, I awoke at 5:55 (I'm not even sure what time my body thinks it is because we switched time zones so much last week) and HAD TO HAVE the Word.  I asked Shane where he'd put my Bible after Sunday School on Sunday and he told me and I went and found it and asked the Lord on my way back to the bedroom where I needed to read to hear what He had for me this morning -- which I have ALSO done before and have ended up reading in Chronicles or somewhere that didn't make any sense to me...but I read it.

This morning I felt strongly that I needed to read in James (which is one of my favorite books, by the way) and I want to share with you what I found.  First, I took a little detour as I was on my way to James and read the last chapter of Hebrews.  Here are some of the verses that I've underlined at different times in my life from chapter 13:

verses 1 & 2 "Keep on loving each other as brothersDo not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

verses 5b & 6 "never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, What can man do to me?"

verse 8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

verse 16 "And do not forget to do good and to share with others for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

verses 20 & 21 "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen."

That spoke straight to my heart.  Then I went ahead and read on in James, the next book, since that's where I was feeling led to read. Here's what it had to say to me this morning:

Ch. 1, verses 2-8: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

I will admit that I have been wondering "did we miss what you were telling us to do, Lord?"  My answer came this morning in these verses and the ones following.  We asked for wisdom and guidance (as I do every day in my parenting and life because I know on my own, it's gonna get messed up -- but specifically to this situation with Alex) and for the Lord's hand to guide us and to stop us if we were making a mistake anywhere along the way.  There were MULTIPLE opportunities for the Lord to just let "circumstances" put a stop to us going.  But instead of our passports not coming, or our documents getting "lost" as many do, or the doctors being too busy to get us in right away for physicals or a MILLION other things that could have gone "wrong" on their own to stop us from being able to get our paperwork in on the VERY THIN deadline that we were working against, the Lord threw open those gates and cleared the way for us to have time to spare with our deadlines and the papers arrived in plenty of time to be filed and for our trip to be underway.  He could have stopped us at any time, but we had "green lights" the ENTIRE time.  It is obvious that we were supposed to go -- these were not "just circumstances falling into place." 

So there's more:

verse 12: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."  We pray that we will persevere in whatever ways the Lord has for us to persevere with this situation.

verse 22: "do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says."

Then shortly after that verse, in the same chapter:
verse 27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

I kept reading in chapter 2 of James and, though I've always known these verses, I didn't remember that they were in James 2...they were exactly what I needed to hear:

verse 17-22: "in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that -- and shudder.  You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. (verse 24) You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (verse 26) As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

Reading this morning from God's Word was like taking all the time I wanted to drink from the purest water in a cool spring on a day that I thought I was going to thirst to death, until the thirst went completely away.  I so desperately needed for the Lord to put this "band aid" on my wounded heart to help it begin to heal and to realize that we DIDN'T miss what the Lord was telling us -- we were obedient and followed through until He told us that it was over.  We had asked last Thursday morning for the Lord to make it CLEAR to us what we were supposed to do with regard to staying in Ukraine.  The answer came CLEARLY that afternoon from the mouth of our sweet Alex.  He said it was time to come home. 

We may never know why we went 1/2 way around the world for this boy to NOT accept our love for him, but we know that we did what we were supposed to do and extended it to him.  My daily prayer for Alex is that the Lord will use that act to show His love to Alex and draw Alex to Himself so that even though we may not spend our days on earth with him, we might spend eternity in Heaven with him.
Well...I know if you have read this with any regularity, you've noticed a dearth of posts lately.  This is because we have been in Ukraine!  We weren't able to post that we were gone on this blog as it is public and we couldn't risk anything going "wrong" with our trip, etc.  It's a big, ugly world out there!

I will fill you in on a few details.  It could get long, but I will try to keep this as brief as I can while still covering the highlights.

We flew to Kiev, Ukraine last Saturday arriving on Sunday afternoon.  Kiev is a nice city.  They had the EuroCup going on while we were there which made things expensive (for Kiev) and crowded.  I don't think the EuroCup had anything to do with making it hot 8-) -- but it was DEFINITELY that while we were there too!  We were in Kiev 2 days and headed out on Tuesday night to our region, Kherson where the orphanage is.  We took a 10 hour train ride in a train that we think had to be at least 30 years old, but maybe closer to 50.  It had been "updated" to have air conditioning -- but only when the train was moving.  So, every time the train stopped for 10-20 minutes (TWENTY TIMES DURING THE 10 HOUR TRIP!!) the air conditioning went off.  Shane and I agreed that it's the hottest we've ever been for the longest period of time without being able to do something about it!!!

We met our facilitator (an INCREDIBLE young woman named Ludmilla aka Luda) who is one of the hardest workers I know.  Our train got in at 7 am.  She was there and we hit the ground running...almost literally.  We went to the apartment which had already been cleaned from the previous people who had left at 5:30 that morning.  (The Ukranians that we met work very hard.)  It was a "luxury apartment" which basically meant that there was hot water 24/7 and you could flush the toilet paper.  It was VERY NICE by Ukraine standards though...and had AIR CONDITIONING which, to me, was the luxury part!!  It was basically the only place that we were that had it with the exception of a few restaurants and the grocery store...but apparently, there's never a guarantee that they will work very well.  We were able to rinse the sweat off in the "shower" (which is a bathtub where you sit and hold a shower head over your head) briefly before we started all the running around for the day.  It was an INSANELY busy day.  We went from government offices to the orphanage where they introduced us to the director and she told us they were calling Sasha (his real name is Alexander and his nickname is Sasha) in to meet us.

He came in and we realized that he had not been told about us at all.  He was shocked.  He was very polite and we shook hands.  We talked for a few minutes (through Luda, who translated) and showed him the book we had made of our family photos, etc.  Probably 10-15 minutes later, they asked him if he wanted us to be his parents.  His immediate response was "Yes, no doubt!" and we were thrilled.  Luda told him that he needed to write out a statement saying he wanted to be adopted and he got a little troubled.  He said he wasn't able to write it right then.  So, we left for a few hours and then had to come back that afternoon when he told us that he was ready to sign the paper.  We were over the top thrilled and relieved.

We left him for the day with a promise to return the next morning, but Luda wasn't able to come with us.  We were basically on our own with him...with the psychologist (who spoke maybe 15 words of English) with us as well.  We took a tour of the grounds of the school/orphanage.  He showed us much of his "world" outside...but not inside.  We had taken a bag of snacks for his groupa (the 20 or so boys he lives/sleeps with) and learned that he was uncomfortable with them knowing/knowing about us.  Apparently, they had begun teasing him and telling him lies about "Americans" -- which we didn't know that morning.  We enjoyed our visit with him even though it was a little tough b/c the russian/english programs I had downloaded only worked with wifi and there was no wifi at the orphanage so the language barrier was significant.  We drew pictures and did charades to communicate and laughed and did our best.

We told him that we'd be back that afternoon and he seemed great with that.  We left, had lunch at a nice restaurant (crepes!! Yum! It was some of the best food we had there!) and Luda met us at the restaurant.  She told us that Sasha had expressed some concerns to the director and was waffling on his decision.  We prayed our hearts out the entire afternoon as we sat in the car and waited place after place where Luda had to do paperwork. (Did I mention yet that it was 109 degrees while we were there?)  We went to the orphanage around 4:45pm.  When we got there, he wasn't there.  He was with a caregiver at the store.  He came back and asked her to come to the meeting with us.  We gave him some soccer shoes that we had talked about (he had drawn a picture to describe them) that we had searched high and low for, and a soccer ball with the Ukraine colors/team symbol on it.  He was appreciative and gave us that ADORABLE little grin of his and my heart melted!

Then, quite suddenly, the mood changed and he started passionately speaking to Luda.  I was watching her intently to try to "read" her expression and getting worried the longer he talked.  In the end, she said that he had made the decision to not be adopted and to stay where he is familiar with life.  He will go to trade school (he says -- but I don't think he's thought about how to pay for that...) and become a cook.  Luda says that kids are encouraged to become cooks because that means that they will always have enough food.  That is a pretty sad motivator for choosing an occupation, but it's what his little 16 yr. old heart was telling him to do.  Well, his heart and his entire groupa and possibly some care-givers.  We were told that his groupa was telling him that Americans take healthy children from orphanages and adopt them and bring them back and harvest their organs to sell to other Americans.  They also warned him about us kidnapping him -- going so far as to give him one of their cell phones "in case we tried to kidnap him, he could call them and they would rescue him."

I thought I was going to stop breathing.  I couldn't believe that we were sitting there listening to those words from his mouth.  We questioned him about why he had asked so many people to find him a family and he said that what he meant when he said that was that he wanted them to find his biological family...which was a bunch of bunk as that family doesn't exist.  His father isn't even listed on his birth certificate and he knows that.  His mother relinquished her parental rights the day he was born -- clearly indicative that all along she had planned to give up her child -- whether he'd come out with perfect hands or not.

We asked several questions of him trying to help him think clearly, but the peer pressure had gotten the best of him and he was unwilling to change his mind or even think about it.  We had asked him if he would be willing to talk to another former orphan (15 yrs. old) who we'd met on the trip who was adopted a year ago from Ukraine and was back on a trip to adopt his sister and was one of the happiest kids I've ever met.  Sasha said no.  We wanted him to get on FB and see pictures of other children who've been adopted from his orphanage and see that they are happy and healthy.  He said no.  We had nothing left to offer as he was unwilling to even listen.  We could almost visibly see the wall he'd put up.  Shane grabbed his hands and told him that he'd always be welcome in our home and then the 3 of us prayed together holding hands.   He thanked us for coming, for our efforts on his behalf, hugged us and then walked us out.  It was the most heart-wrenching scene I've ever been a part of.  I felt like I would never be able to catch my breath again.

We talked to Luda later that night to see what she thought about us staying and she said that she didn't think, based on their conversation, that he had any intention of changing his mind, but that of course, it could always happen.  We felt like if we went back to the orphanage after that final "goodbye", we would watch the wall that he had up, reinforce itself and become even thicker.  He was resolute in his intentions and, having dealt with teenagers, we know that if they're pushed/pressured, they will only run further in the opposite direction.  We certainly didn't want that to happen.  So we confirmed our reservations for our grueling trip home on the only flight available, talked to our families, told our children (among the hardest things I've ever had to do) and started packing up.  Neither of us slept worth a hoot that night (about 3 1/2 hours) and woke in plenty of time to get ready and leave our accommodations in really good shape!  Luda came by to wrap some things up and we left with our driver, Leonid (who was wonderful, but didn't speak hardly ANY English) for the airport 3 1/2 hours away.

We flew from Ukraine to Poland, Poland to Germany, Germany to Denver and Denver to home...over a period of 2 days -- about 31 hours.  We are spent.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually and are looking forward to regrouping and celebrating our son's birthday (which we were going to miss) and being together as a family this summer instead of separated by a LOT of water and land for a good portion of it -- though we were completely willing to do it (eventually totally united as a family on the decision to adopt) for the sake of Sasha's life. 

The parallels we have been able to draw thus far are many.  The main one I want to share right now is this:  God loves you.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice for YOUR well-being.  He sent His Son, Jesus Christ from Heaven to earth to DIE a horrible death to pay for YOUR sins because YOU couldn't.  HE GAVE THIS TO YOU AS A GIFT.  Whether you choose to accept His gift that will save your life and give you hope for the future (eternity) is up to you.  You can choose to listen to the influences of friends or those around you who will try to steer you away from choosing right, or you can listen to the voice of One who loves you most and receive the gift He's giving you.  He has no ulterior motives.  He has no desire for your future other than what is good and beautiful and right for you -- though sometimes it may come after walking down a path that doesn't really LOOK like it's the best path, but in the end leads to more beauty than you could ever imagine.  He doesn't really ask anything of you but to obey and receive His FREE gift.  No strings attached.

I'm certain there's more to come...

Friday, June 15, 2012

We are packing with frenzy around here!!  As our travel date nears, we are overwhelmed with all that is ahead of us!!  We are amazed at what the Lord has done thus far to get us to where we are in this process: Renee meeting Sam while adopting her daughter & him asking her to find him a family, a mutual FB "friend" of Renee's and ours posting Sam's picture on FB, Shane and I both seeing it and hearing a call from the Lord to "do something about it" & our kids being on board with it, the whole crazy world of paperwork & passports falling into place so beautifully, meeting the deadline we had to get it all done on such a short timeline, the support of our family and church family and now, our travel dates in place and our adventure into the unknown finally beginning!!!  8-)  I am completely overcome with emotion when I think of where we are today and where we were February 23 of this year -- when we didn't even know Sam existed!!!

Our lives changed on Feb. 24.  We don't really even know how at this point -- but I'm certain it's for the better.  Soon, we will know the extent of those changes as we meet our son.  Please continue to pray for his heart to be prepared for our family and for our family to be prepared for him.  We are asking a lot of this child -- to leave everything comfortable and come to a world of unknowns.  But we know that the Lord has been working to get him to where he is and will continue to work to unite us as a family.

We will keep this blog updated as much as possible.  We are unsure what our accommodations will be with regard to wireless, etc. there.  Hoping for wi-fi everywhere we go!!  8-)

Blessings, friends!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ok...so I realize that I have this need to "control" (though I don't like to admit it) and that it can sometimes cause me to worry.  I am being really transparent here...and admitting that I'm being bombarded with issues over which to worry and (here's the transparent part) I'm succumbing to them & worrying!!! 

See, I HATE worry.  I battle it -- have for a long time.  I have people close to me in my life who worry a LOT!!  They worry sometimes that they don't have anything to worry about!!  It bugs me to no end!!  I battle it!!  I'm frustrated/embarrassed/ashamed to say that I'm losing the fight this time.  It's not that worry is consuming me.  I'm totally functioning.  I'm able to eat.  I'm still smiling and laughing and enjoying life...it's just that there's a nagging worry-bug in the back of my mind that I'm having trouble stomping out.  When I had anxiety (before Adley's open heart surgery at 4 months old when I got exhausted, dehydrated & anxiety took over) I stopped eating, laughing, sleeping, functioning -- though it was just for a couple of weeks till things got "ironed" out (and my temporary meds kicked in)!!  This is NOT that...this is just the controlling part of me thinking about ALL the things & possibilities that are coming up for us very soon that will be so COMPLETELY out of my control!!!

So, I picked up my Jesus Calling book...(tired of hearing about this little book yet??) and read yesterday's entry.  Ready?:  "I'm all around you, like a cocoon of Light.  My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me.  Many things can block this awareness, but the major culprit is WORRY (emphasis mine!!).  My children tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life.  However, worry is a form of unbelief; it is anathema to Me.  Who is in  charge of your life?  If it is you, then you have good reason to worry.  But if it is I, then worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive.  When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me.  Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me.  I will either take care of the problem Myself of show you how to handle it.  In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me." 

Well, after I looked up anathema (which, incidentally means a thing detested or loathed = God HATES worry!!) and stopped shaking my head in disbelief that it had happened ONCE AGAIN that the Lord spoke to me directly through this little book (that I believe is so inspired!!!) the Lord started bringing to my mind scriptures about how HE handles this stuff for me.  John 16:33-“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (not just the United States, but EE too!)”  John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (even when you're traveling over lots and lots of water)" and Matthew 6:25-34 - “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? (or "How shall we leave our children for 2 weeks and get on a plane to a foreign country?") 'For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."

So, there you have it.  The Bible speaks clearly to worry and, I'm telling you -- it's NOT from God.  So, again today, I relinquish control.  This is a different kind of control.  Before I had to relinquish control of the EE government and all their people to get this show on the road (since clearly, I had NOT ONE OUNCE of control over any of that!).  Today I am relinquishing control of my family into the Lord' hands.  The One who fearfully and wonderfully created each one of us and knows the number of hairs on our heads.  The One who holds the whole world in His hands.  The One who is SO MUCH better able to care for my children and me than I am.  I'm merely His hands and feet to my children & husband -- I'm not the one who will shape and mold them into who they need to be.  The Lord can do that WITH or WITHOUT me!!!  I know that if He wants me raising my kids, that I will come home to them healthy and waiting for me.  And I know that if He wants someone else to do that job, then He can take me "out" on my way to HEB just as easily as He could allow something to go wrong on my trip to EE!!!

A long time ago, when I used to sing in church a lot, one of my favorite songs to sing was called "My Life is in Your Hands" (by Kathy Troccoli - yes, I'm old!)  I'm putting my money where my mouth is today and singing that song to the Lord.  Heck, I just saw the option to make it my ringtone...I think I may.

Life can be so good
Life can be so hard
Never knowing what each day
Will bring to where you are
Sometimes I forget
And sometimes I can't see
That whatever comes my way
You'll be with me

My life is in your hands
My heart is in your keeping
I'm never without hope
Not when my future is with you

My life is in your hands
And though I may not see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing
Cause your love does amazing things
Lord, I know, my life is in your hands

Nothing is for sure
Nothing is for keeps
All I know is that your love
Will live eternally
So I will find my way
And I will find my peace
Knowing that you'll meet my every need

My life is in your hands
My heart is in your keeping
I'm never without hope
Not when my future is with you

My life is in your hands
And though I may not see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing
Cause your love does amazing things
Lord, I know, my life is in your hands

When I'm at my weakest, Lord You carry me
Then I become my strongest, Lord in your hands

My life is in your hands
And though I may not see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing
Cause your love does amazing things
Lord, I know, my life is in your hands
I trust you Lord
My life is in your hands

This is how I'm choosing to walk today and for the next MANY weeks as we walk through uncharted waters (for OUR lives -- I know MANY have walked before us through these waters!).  Pray with me that I'll be able to REST nestled safely in the loving arms of my Savior and Lord and TRULY TRUST Him to lead, guide, protect and keep me and mine.

Friday, June 1, 2012

There is ONE child left (of the 14 kids who desperately wanted families) whose picture was taken with the rest of the children of the orphanage where our Sam is...He is the ONLY one not spoken for at this time.  PLEASE go to this link and read about him to see if YOU or someone you know are his forever family.  His name is Marcus...you have to scroll down a bit to see him...WARNING: this could change your life.  View at your own risk.  He is beautiful.