Nope. I didn't post yesterday. I was spent after a day that wouldn't seem to end. Yesterday was difficult for me and for her.
I didn't notice it until I heard the soft sniffling coming from the passenger's seat. Her head was turned to the window and she wouldn't respond when I said her name. There was lots to do yesterday: house cleaning, running errands, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. She is very helpful around the house; she loves to clean and organize. We have tried to tell her "no" when she tries to clean, but she genuinely wants to help and it hurts her feelings if we persist in our objections. She's actually outside in the car with the Dustbuster as I write. (No, you can't borrow her.)
Things are different here. There are different people and different rules. Teaching her the rules is taxing. When we left the airport last Wednesday, I buckled her into the seat. When Robert showed her the sunroof, she sprung up out of that seat quicker than I could react. She did not like the seatbelt and did not want to wear it. Each time for the first few days she would say, "Leslie, please no!" I would say "Da." I would win. She would put the seatbelt on with a heavy sigh. After a few days I wouldn't say anything. I would put mine on, start the car, and just sit in the driveway. After a moment she would look up and say, "I know. I know!" I have forgotten how tiring the struggle is. My four know the ropes and are at an age when I rarely have to remind them of the basic rules. So there have been a lot of "No" moments in our home lately. I resist the temptation to spoil her because she has not had things before. I try to remember the limits that we live within and follow those. When she wants to eat chocolate for breakfast, I have to say "nyet". When she wants to carry the cats around (they hate that), I have to say "nyet". I find myself saying it more than I am used to and probably more than she is used to hearing. So we are both tired from the growing pains of this relationship.
I try to put myself in her shoes and feel what she is experiencing. We are new adults telling her what to do and not to do. Our children are gone for camp and she is here alone with us. She is accustomed to being with kids 24/7. So I am getting the bulk of her energy. The entire experience is overstimulating and she was hyper yesterday. I said we would go swimming again and it rained. She was disappointed and that combined with all the new rules had gotten to her.
I waited until she had gone to bed before I had my meltdown. Peridically a verse would run through my mind. "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) I didn't want to hear that though. I just wanted to sleep and forget about things. I know that both of us are being disciplined thorough this experience. And if she feels anything like I do, we're both exhausted. . .
When I was growing up, my mom would tell me before I went over to a friend's house to play, "Don't wear out your welcome." In other words, don't make your presence taxing to your hosts. Some people get this feeling when they've had house guests for an extended period of time. Its difficult to be "hospitable" over time. Why is that?
Kristina has only been here four and a half days and yet I find myself growing weary of being hospitable. "What!" you say, "Shocking!" But this state doesn't really have anything to do with her. My day in and day out routine has been interrupted. My comfortable way of life has been altered. As much as I want to provide for this child, it is a struggle to do so. Her very presence forces me to examine my mothering skills. After many years with my own children, I don't find myself questioning why I do the things I do with them. But with Kristina, I must look at where my weaknesses are as a mother and as a womanly example. And so I am weary of being hospitable. Its much easier to do things the way I have always done them. But my "house guest" has caused me to look at the relationships in my life. That's a painful process.
For those of you who are checking in to hear about Kristina's experience, I apologize for the running commentary. Let's get on to what you're really here for! Today is Sunday and we went to church or "Jesus' house" as Kristina called it. I used the online translatr to explain where we were going and what to expect. I asked her if she knew who Jesus is. She typed her response in Russian and cliked the translate button. The screen said, "Son of God. The divine one." Kristina has been particularly blessed to have a number of Christians in her life. People like Galina, Larisa, Olya, and Lela have faithfully ministed the gospel to the children in her class. We attended early service at St. Andrews and then to Orangewood for a quick visit. It must be difficult to not carry on a full conversation for several days and so I wanted her to be able to see Alex and chat a bit. She did fine at both places. I had forgotten how easily she gets cold. She is not accustomed to air conditioning. By the time the offering came aroud, her hands were like ice and she was shivering so we slipped out of the Orangewood service. We headed home and enjoyed just vegging for the afternoon. We had plans to swim at Patti's house again until I got a call from camp and learned that Joshua had hurt his hand and was going in for an X-ray. You'd be proud of me! I didn't go into a tail spin at all! We waited for the return call to learn that he had fractured a finger but would be fine. Later in the evening Sasha called to invite me to movie night, a long running tradition with these girls. Kristina and I headed over to the Torrez home and had a wonderful time. She is becoming more and more at ease with the people in our life. She instantly took to Gabby (I think the two of them are a lot alike :). After several loud card games, pizza, and endless Torrez puppy kisses later, we left for home to keep from wearing out our welcome. I think we will take Kristina bowling tomorrow. I'll take new pics and post them soon!
Pardon me for quoting Tina Turner, but she raises a good question. I was talking to Patti about how it is that we can love this child, this total stranger. How do you look at a child that is not yours biologically and love him or her? What makes us look at Kristina differently than any other child that crosses our path?
In contemplating the nature of love, I am brought back to the example that Christ set for us. How is it that God could love us in the state that we were in? I think that our concept of "love" is much different than the example that Christ showed humanity. We tend to think love is an emotion. And as such, it is subject to change, die, fluctuate. But God showed us that love is a choice, not a feeling. It is not dependent on its object and it is not subject to outside forces. If we are to love our neighbor (Matthew 19:19), our spouses (Ephesians 5:25), our children (Titus 2:4), our enemies (Matthew 5:23), and even our Lord (Mark 12:30) then we must choose to do so. Let's face it, there are days that we don't feel like being particularly loving to our spouses. When we choose to love, regardless of the object of our love, we are practicing Godly charity. It is this understanding that has helped me to maintain many a relationship in which I felt wronged or dishonored. Love is sometimes a difficult choice.
So we approach our time with Kristina with that in mind. We choose to love her because Christ chose to love us. Yes, it is easy to love a child when she is sweet and thankful. But when she challenges our authority, we will love her. When she doesn't trust us, we will love her. We will love her because it is an extension of the grace of God in all of our lives.
Kristina and I were left to ourselves today as Robert returned to work. We ran errands and did what I would have done on any other day. We swung by the school to drop something off and she was able to meet a few of the teachers and staff. It was good to see how welcoming and kind everyone was with her. She really wanted to go swimming again, so when Patti called and offered a playdate I was thrilled. Spending time with Patti gave me a chance to think things through out loud; she's always such a good sounding board and she's faithful to remind me of how God works through all things. Kristina and Kaitlin swam and played with the kittens. There's a lot to be said for nonverbal communication! While swimming she suddenly stood up and said, "I am hungry." I was surprised and happy to hear the declaration. Everytime we have asked her if she was hungry, she would say no several times before accepting food. Its good to see her becoming comfortable with the concept of eating however much she wants, when she wants. And she's eating! She eats about every two hours. I talked with Kim and she said that Alex is the same way.
We returned home and the jetlag finally hit her. Her heavy eyes tried to stay awake, but finally she succumed to the couch and a blanket and said, "I slippers now". When she awoke a few hours later, I showed her the computer and English software that Steve at Russian-Toys.com had sent to help Kristina with her English. She worked on the program for two hours and had made incredible progress. She wrote down dozens of words in English and Russian to practice.
After dinner I sat down at an online translator and typed out a few things I wanted to tell her. "Do you need anything?" "We will drive to get the children in a few days." "Robert will be home from work in one hour." "Do you ride elephants?" She thought that last one was hilarious! Then she reversed the translation and told me, "I love you and I think you love me too?" There's not much lost in translation there!
Spending time with Kristina makes me miss the children more and more. I can't wait until we're all together. Pray that the merger is smooth and that we can all find a way to live with our differences over the next few weeks. More later!
I can see her swaying in the hammock in the backyard. One bare foot is propped against a tree to maintain the hammock's gentle rocking. She is completely at ease in our world.
I laid awake last night for what seemed forever dwelling on the strangeness of the day. I could see the darkened doorway of Hannah's room and I found myself rising to check on Kristina several times. Each time I would find her twisted a different way in the enormous bed, but fast asleep. How has any of this happened? Wasn't I just contemplating a solo missionary journey? How is it that this child has managed to follow me back? There is an awe that comes from praying for something that seems so big and watching God deliver faithfully.
She awoke before us and had made her bed and finished organizing the closet. As I was getting ready I could hear Robert offer, "Kristina, do you want to take a walk?" I heard his feet stomp the floor as he played charades with her to illustrate his question. When they return he is laughing at her amazement of walking the block and finding herself on the doorstep again. He said she saw a squirrel and squeeled "Squirrel!" and took off after it. Thankfully it got away :)
Robert is determined to feed this child. He took her to a breakfast buffet and the two of them ate and ate and ate. We went to Sam's Club to get groceries and the two of them picked out almost more than our freezer can hold.
Since she woke up this morning, she has been asking to go swimming. We managed to make it to the pool this afternoon. Does she like swimming?
I know that the ups and downs will materialize this summer. Thanks again for your faithful prayers. I know that you are holding us up to the Lord!
I had braced myself for pretty much anything. After 19 hours of travel time, I wasn't sure if she would be exhausted, wired, sick . . . I just wasn't sure. Robert and I stood in the airport with Kim and Joey and waited. Ulyses was there with video camera in hand (thank you, U). The plane arrived a few minutes early and we watched as passenger after passenger came through the gates.
And then there she was.
Arms wrapped around herself, backpack in tow she stood with Alex and her guardian Boris. As Boris reunited with his family who lives here in Orlando, we stood back and waited. I desperately wanted to call out her name, catch her eye. But I waited. When she saw me, she rushed forward unhesitatingly and hugged me as if we'd only been apart a day. She looked into my face and said "I love you!". I stepped to the side to introduce her to Robert. As soon as his name passed my lips she hurried to hug him and repeat the same greeting, "I love you!" Robert was taken aback by the instant attachment.
On the way to the car, we ask if she is hungry. She says she is not but she asks to go to our house. I try to indicate that we will go there eventually. We haven't eaten dinner and I try to explain that we will stop and get something. But the best translation I can come up with is, "We need to feed Robert." When we get to the car she "oohs" over the size of the vehicle and climbs into the back seat. As we travel down 436 she counts the McDonalds that we pass. Two! Three! There is one McDonalds that I saw in Odessa and she is shocked as we pass more and more. Robert puts down the automatic window next to her and she gasps and then giggles when she realizes he has done it. He shows her the sun roof and she is out of her seatbelt and standing up in the opening before I can say "nyet!"
She settles back into her seat as we pull into Sonic for a quick bite. I ask again if she is hungry and Robert indicates that she can have anything on the menu. She asks for an ice cream and we decide to indulge her for the evening. Robert orders a hamburger, fries, and onion rings. I watch as the two of them split the meal. I had forgotten how usual it is for the children to say they are not hungry when they really are. She asks to take the leftover french fries home and finishes them in the car. She asks again if we can go to the house.
She notices everything: the writing on the tires, a convertible car, all the restaurants and stores. Its a new world for her. On the way home from dinner I go through her backpack to see what she has brought: one pair of underwear, one dress, one pair of shorts, two shirts, and one pair of socks. Most are worn and look too small for her. Robert says we will stop by Target and get her something to wear for tomorrow. I had held back from buying her clothes before she came. The only purchase I made before she came was a nightgown for her to sleep in the first night. At Target she picks out a pink shirt and shorts, her favorite color. She asks again to go to the house as we check out.
Finally we get to the house and the cats are in the driveway to greet us. She hops out of the car, scoops Jack up, and nuzzles him as long as he will allow. She "oohs" as we walk into the house. I imagine our humble home is quite extravagant in her little eyes. We walk her from room to room and show her where things are. She returns to Hannah's room where she will be staying and asks something in Russian. A few attempts later she shrugs her shoulders and says, "Hannah?" She had wanted to go to the house because she wanted to meet Hannah! We explain as best we can that Hannah is gone and will be back in a few days. For those of you who don't know, the kids are all away at camp until next week. She is a little disappointed, but is quickly distracted when Robert shows her the cat treats and her feet are swarmed by hungry kittens. He shows her the water and ice dispenser in the door of the refrigerator and her eyes grow big. Robert is having such a good time showing her our modern conveniences! He gets such joy out of watching her eyes grow big and the inevitable giggle that follows.
We watched as she explored Hannah's room looking at the things in the desk. She open the closet doors and sees the mess that Hannah has left as she prepared for camp. Robert and I watch puzzled as she starts taking things out. We can't figure out what she is looking for. And then it hits us. She is cleaning the closet out! Robert stops her and tells her there will be no working for her this summer. She settles onto the bed and asks, pointing to the nightgown, "Hannah?" When we indicate that it is hers she holds it up and says "thank you, thank you!" She wants to take a bath so that she can change into the gown. I draw her a big bubble bath and get the same awed look that she has sported most of the evening. After her bath she climbs in the chair with me and I brush out her wet hair. I am struck by how natural and easy the entire process has seemed so far. Weariness gets the best of her and we find her snuggled into Hannah's queen size bed. She hugs and kisses me goodnight as Robert finds a nightlight for her. He decides she needs a flashlight "just in case", but she is fast asleep by the time he returns. And so now I go to that same place. I know tomorrow will be a full day and I will need my rest. Continue to pray for us! I will update you and post pictures tomorrow.
Its 5am in Odessa, Ukraine and I know a very sleepy child is boarding a plane that is scheduled to leave at any moment. She has a very long day ahead of her. Three plane rides and she will be in our arms. Pray with me for her safe travel and for courage to make this strange trip. She is coming because you have been so generous with everything you have. She is coming because God has a plan and has blessed us to watch it unfold. Do you feel that? It's the future beginning.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8 Shame on me. How many things God has shown me in the last seven weeks, yet I continue to second guess His plans. God put Alex on my heart and so I wrote about him on the blog. When Dr. R e-mailed and asked me to put the word out about Alex needing a host family, I was already ahead of him. But what did I really expect to happen? After talking with Robert about Alex's plight, he unhesitatingly said, "Tell them to send Alex to us." Half of the time I think my sweet husband has tremendous faith, the other half I think he doesn't think things through. Shame on me.
I spoke with Dr. R and told him to send Alex with Kristina on the 21st. What's one more? The kids were excited about having another boy in the house for a few weeks; and I was excited about having such an incredible child to love thoroughly. When everything was said and done, I called my dear friend Kim to tell her we would be having one more this summer and to ask her to pray about working out the financial details. As I am walking her through the events that led to us choosing to bring Alex to Orlando, she says, "We'll take him."
I tried to talk her out of it. I insisted that she take some time, speak with her family, sleep on it. She calls me back a few minutes later with the same concrete declaration: "We'll take him." I don't know what shocks me more, my own lack of faith or God's patience with his doubting daughter. Pray for Kim and her family. Pray that the financials will be worked out for Alex. Pray for me. :)
God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. - Psalm 68:6
Alex was the first orphan I met when I arrived in Ukraine. As I walked through customs at the Odessa airport and passed through the double doors, Alex was standing there with a sheepish and sincere grin on his face. The first place we went from the airport was orphanage #5, Alex's home. As Dr. R showed me through dark corridors and up old staircases, Alex stayed a few steps behind watching and listening. I attempted to take his picture a few times that first day and involuntarily his head would bow when I focused my attentions on him. He is a sweet and quiet soul. In my attempt to find old pictures of Kristina online, I have come across pictures of Alex. Pictues that go far too far back in time. Pictures of him as a little boy living in the same orphanage. His big brown eyes have not changed in 12 years.
Last year he had the opportunity to come to American through the hosting program. Dr R told me the story of Alex's first few moments here in America. His host family picked him up from the airport and drove home. Alex cried sitting in the car and out of concern, the host family called an interpretor from the group to find out what was wrong. They quickly learned that Alex was crying because he was happy to be here. His time in America was a wonderful experience for him, but his host family was not able to or interested in adoption.
So why am I telling you this? Alex has the opportunity to come to America again. In fact he is coming on June 21st. The problem? He doesn't have a host family. He will stay with Dr. R or one of the Frontier Horizon staff through July 5th. If you know of anyone who is willing and able to host Alex this summer, please constact KT Bronson at Frontier Horizon (email@example.com). Many families host with no intention of adopting. The purpose of the program is to expose the children to the community, raise awareness of their situation, and provide the children with a "family" experience for a few short weeks. Ask God to move on Alex's behalf. Pray for him.